In between the CTAM Summit sessions jam-packed with heavyweights such as NBC News’ David Gregory and Deepak Chopra, you may find yourself with a few hours of free time and the temptation of Walt Disney’s kingdom just steps away. But given all the blogs, mobile apps and interactive itineraries devoted to excruciating details on visiting Walt Disney World, should you even attempt to venture in without months of preparations? Of course. CableFAX editor-in-chief Amy Maclean, who has been making pilgrimages to the House of Mouse since she was a tiny tot, gives her tips.
Epcot Food & Wine Festival: Summit hotels Swan and Dolphin and the overflow Yacht and Beach Club are an easy walk to Epcot’s World Showcase (ditch the heels for sneakers first). The location is especially important this time of year because the annual International Food & Wine Festival is underway. Don’t let the “Disney” name fool you into thinking this is kiddie fare. Because the crowds can get quite large, your best bet is to visit WDWInfo to settle on what international delicacies you want to sample. As far as rides go, Epcot’s biggest attractions are Soarin’ and Mission Space, but the lines might rule those out if you’re short on time (however, a friend who recently visited tells us Mission Space lines were never more than 10-15 minutes). The popular Test Track is closed for renovations. We’re not saying this will help you write your ticket off on an expense report, but the Spaceship Earth attraction (Epcot’s famous silver ball) is all about the history of communications, if you want to try. Epcot’s Illuminations firework show is set for 10pm Sat and 9pm Sun-Thurs. A nice viewing spot is on the bridge between the UK and France. It’s made better with a quick visit to France for a Grand Marnier Slush (what a Slurpee would taste like if 7-11 added alcohol).
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: If kids are in your party and you’re not going to be able to hit the Magic Kingdom until evening, this might be the way to go. Instead of buying a park ticket, just purchase party tickets here (Advance purchase recommended, plus you save a few bucks). The party, which allows kids to dress up and trick or treat, starts at 7pm. But your ticket to the party will let you enter the Magic Kingdom around 4-4:30pm, so you can ride a few rides beforehand without having to purchase a park admission ticket. Magic Kingdom is about a 15 minute bus ride from the Summit resort hotels. One quick tip if you hit the Magic Kingdom: for years, you have had to head straight to Dumbo first thing in the morning to avoid massive lines. Not true anymore. In June, the park opened a rather impressive interactive line queue. Kids can romp on circus-themed, indoor (read: air-conditioned) playground while the adults have a seat and wait for their pager (looks similar to what you get at Applebee’s on a busy Friday night) to tell them it’s time to ride. Fans of Disney’s long-running Main Street Electrical Parade take note. It normally is at 8pm and 10pm, but it’s not on the schedule for Sun, Tues or Thurs night.
Thrills & Chills: After Epcot, Hollywood Studios is the closest park to Summit hotels. It will take about 10-15 minutes to get to it by boat (25 minutes or so on foot). This is the park to hit if you’re a thrill seeker. Must rides: Rock n’ Roll Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Tower of Terror. If you’re looking for something different, check out the Magic of Animation and Animation Academy, where you’ll sit in a class and learn to draw Disney characters. Hollywood Studios is also home to what is arguably Walt Disney World’s most popular show, Fantasmic. The 25-minute firework and water show is slated to for 7:30pm every night during Summit, with Sat and Sun featuring a 9pm show. Warning: you’ll need to arrive at least an hour early to get a seat.
On the Boardwalk: If you want a touch of the Disney experience without stepping foot inside a park, hit the boardwalk. It’s right outside the Summit hotels surrounding Crescent Lake. Designed after the boardwalks that were famous during the turn of the 20th Century, it’s home to restaurants, shopping and even a couple nightclubs. At night, midway games and street performers hit the boardwalk. For a special meal, visit Flying Fish Café ($$$), which many declare is the best place to eat in all of Walt Disney World. Steak lovers can hit the Yachtsman Steakhouse located inside the Yacht & Beach Club resort ($$$). Not as good as the popular Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada, but much easier to get a reservation. Another option is to take a free Disney World Resort bus to Downtown Disney, where there is even more shopping and dining—not to mention Cirque du Soleil La Nouba and other shows. Brand new to Downtown Disney is “Phineas and Ferb & You,” which lets the youngsters star as a virtual character alongside the popular troublemakers and Agent P. They’ll get a complimentary digital photo souvenir.