By David Platt, your Mouse Master specialist to Disney Destinations and beyond
Today, let’s take a look at which Walt Disney World® Resort FastPasses you’re likely to have the most trouble getting:
At Magic Kingdom, it’s no contest for the most coveted FastPass: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Before the new Toy Story Land and Pandora World of Avatar opened to take a bit of the pressure off, this was perhaps THE hardest FastPass to get in the entire resort. Except at busier times of year, you can probably book this one at about 60-61 days out.
Like in most parks, the newest ride is also the hottest FastPass: Frozen Ever After. The only thing that keeps Frozen Ever After from being nearly impossible to get is Epcot’s tiered FastPass structure. Guests can only select one ‘Tier One’ attraction, meaning they have to make a choice between Frozen Ever After, Test Track, or Soarin’. While it isn’t as popular as some of the hottest FastPasses at other parks, this one can usually be booked when a 60-day booking window opens except at busier times of year.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Until recently, Hollywood Studios was pretty much a walk in the park as far as FastPasses were concerned. That all changed when Toy Story Land opened. The two new Toy Story Land rides are the hottest tickets, with Slinky Dog Dash outstripping Alien Swirling Saucers by a long shot. Slinky Dog Dash is almost guaranteed to be completely booked at about 62-63 days out.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Pandora- The World of Avatar was a game-changer in a lot of ways, throwing into turmoil a park that had previously been fairly easy as far as FastPasses go. The new Avatar Flight of Passage attraction is indisputably the hottest FastPass at all of Disney World right now. The standby wait time routinely tops out at about 2-3 hours. If you don’t have a FastPass booked at about 64-65 days out, you’re most likely out of luck.
Wait. Don’t FastPass booking windows open up at 60 days? How can they be gone at 65 days out?
I know what you might be thinking: how can some attractions be completely booked at more than 60 days out? Don’t FastPass booking windows only open at 60 days for on-site guests?
Yes, that’s accurate— but at that 60-day point, guests can book FastPasses for the entire length of their trip. Say, for example, you’re visiting for seven days. At the 60-day point, you can make reservations for the first day of your trip 60 days away—but you can also make them for every other day of your trip, up to 67 days away. Guests with longer trips snatch up those coveted popular FastPass reservations, making them hard to come by right at the 60-day mark. Guests visiting for just a day or two may already find all the popular FastPasses gone when their booking window opens.
I didn’t get a FastPass. What can I do?
Simple answer? Wait in the standby line. But if you’re willing to put in some time and effort, a FastPass is still possible. Guests change and cancel plans all the time, so random FastPasses for even the popular rides pop up occasionally. Sometimes, Disney will extend a park’s hours, meaning more FastPasses will pop up in the system. These methods require tenacity, knowledge of the best times to check for cancelations, and more than a bit of luck.
If you’re willing to throw a bit of money at the problem, there are guided tours that include popular attractions. Animal Kingdom, for example, currently offers the ‘Ultimate Night of Adventure VIP Tour’ which includes instant access to the Pandora rides along with a few others. Or, for high-rollers, there’s the Disney Private VIP Tour Service where you have a personal guide who will tailor a seven-hour minimum tour so you get to do exactly what you want to do, including skipping a lot of lines.
By David Platt, your Mouse Master specialist to Disney Destinations and beyond
Today we’re taking a look at a non-Disney destination: Discovery Cove. One of Orlando’s hidden secrets, Discovery Cove is a bit of a conundrum to describe. My best attempt? “A slice of tropical heaven in the middle of Orlando, and the closest thing you’ll get to experiencing a port of call without actually getting on a cruise ship.”
My family spent a day here in the middle of a recent theme park vacation, and it was the absolutely perfect rest day. It provided some much-needed down time after several days in the theme parks. Looking back on our entire trip, every member of the family lists it as a highlight.
But what exactly is Discovery Cove? While it’s primarily a water-based park, it’s by no means a traditional ‘water park.’ You won’t find water slides or wave pools here. What you will find? Relaxation. Serenity. Flowing beaches. Truly tranquil ‘lazy rivers.’ Discovery Cove is owned by Sea World, and they did their best to recreate a tropical oasis right in the heart of the Orlando area.
First, a rundown of the physical aspect of the park. There are three main areas: a saltwater reef teeming with tropical sealife, a massive dolphin pool, and a freshwater lazy river connected to numerous freshwater swimming areas.
The Grand Reef: this saltwater lagoon is where you can grab a mask and snorkel to see manta rays and tropical fish up close (and even sharks— but from a distance behind glass!). My family spent a large portion of our day here, where there’s something new to look at around every coral reef. You can also pay a bit extra to experience a ‘SeaVenture,’ an extended underwater experience with a helmet attached to an air source.
The Dolphin Lagoon: for many people, this is THE reason to come to Discovery Cove. It’s one of the very few places in the United States where you can actually swim with dolphins. Note that you can only enter the dolphin pool if you’ve purchased an add-on ‘dolphin swim’ package.
Wind-Away River: this isn’t your typical ‘lazy river’ at a super-crowded water park. It’s not wall-to-wall inner tubes with kids jumping around everywhere. It truly is relaxing. It varies in depth from a couple of feet at entrances to eight feet, and takes you on a journey through caves, through aviaries, and by freshwater beaches where you can take a break from the river and swim. It never feels like you’re in an artificially-created environment, but looks and feels like a real river.
Are you sold yet? Wait, it gets better.
I haven’t even touched on the service aspect of the park. Discovery Cove is darn near all-inclusive— with your standard entry, you get all food (breakfast, lunch, and snacks), beverages (including beer and wine), wetsuits, and parking. They even provide sunscreen if you didn’t bring your own! While there are add-ons you can purchase to upgrade your day, like the previously-mentioned dolphin swim and SeaVenture, it’s entirely possible to step into Discovery Cove and never spend another dime.
Another fantastic aspect of Discovery Cove? It’s never crowded. They limit the number of tickets they sell per day, so you’re hardly ever waiting in line for anything. The ONE exception to this rule is at meal times— lines at the restaurants may be long, but move very quickly.
We had concerns about visiting Discovery Cove. On paper, it seems like there’s not a lot to do, particularly if you choose not to do the dolphin swim like us. But we easily spent a whole day here, and never felt bored in the slightest. We spent hours exploring the reef, floated down the lazy river multiple times, and quite simply RELAXED, which is something we’re not great at.
Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat. I can’t imagine visiting Orlando without a visit to Discovery Cove now.
Disclosure: While I received a travel professional discount for my Discovery Cove package, the discount did not influence my review.
I'm David Platt, your Mouse Master Disney Destination specialist. I'm delighted to bring you the latest news on Disney Destinations.