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Arthur Levine

Arthur\\\'s Theme Parks Blog


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Time to Get Wet

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Now that June is upon us, and the summer season has officially begun (if not summer itself), most water parks, as well as theme parks, have opened. See what is in store this year, including the world's tallest water slide, in Slide Guide 2014, my rundown of what's new at water parks .


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Photo: Schlitterbahn

Wash a Lard Lad Donut Down with Some Butterbeer

Tuesday May 27, 2014

For the most part, theme park dining used to be an afterthought. Many parks still offer the same tired fast food that can be found virtually anywhere. But some places, including Universal Orlando, have elevated park dining to a new level and make it a compelling part of the story. In some cases, they might be serving the same old stuff, but at least they present their burgers and fries in highly themed environments and pay close attention to the details.

Take the relatively new Fast Food Boulevard at Universal Studios Florida, for example. The Simpsons-themed food court is a hoot. And the food -- chicken and waffle sandwich served with maple syrup mayo, anyone? -- is pretty good.

Thanks to an elite panel of travel and food writers who participated in a survey, I've complied a rundown of the top ten best quick service restaurants at Universal Orlando, including the highly ranked Fast Food Boulevard. Previously, I published the top ten best Universal Orlando table service restaurants.

Among the highly anticipated features of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, which will be opening in a few weeks at Universal Studios Florida, will be the Leaky Cauldron pub and other eateries such as Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour. It is likely I'll be updating my top-ten dining lists.

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

MyMagic+, FastPass+, and My Disney Experience: Say What?

Wednesday May 21, 2014

Disney World's relatively new trip planning program includes all kinds of terms, including MyMagic+, MagicBands, My Disney Experience, and FastPass+. Among all the plus signs and the magic, are you confused? Are you trying to figure out what it all means?

Fear not. Your trusted About.com Theme Parks "Expert" is here to sort it all out for you. I break down the terms, define them, and offer resources to help you get the info you need.

Disney World is offering some powerful tools to make advance ride reservations and do all kinds of other amazing things. In order to take advantage of the new program and plan your next visit to the resort, however, you'll need to know what the heck Disney is talking about. Read What is Disney's MyMagic+, FastPass+, and My Disney Experience?

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

It (Still) Makes Sense to Get Online Tickets

Tuesday May 20, 2014

First the bad news: Disneyland, SeaWorld Orlando, and Busch Gardens Tampa all raised their ticket prices recently. Now the good news: It may cost more now, but it's still cheaper to buy tickets online in advance of your visit than it is to get them at the parks. Plus, you don't have to wait in any lines at the ticket booths. (And Lord knows, you'll be waiting in plenty of lines once you get into the parks.)

I just updated my Florida and California deals pages, which includes links to purchase discount park tickets in advance as well as the latest special offers:

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

He Put the Magic in MyMagic+

Wednesday May 14, 2014

After having overseen the development and rollout of MyMagic+, the massive vacation planning program at Walt Disney World that is estimated to have cost $1 billion (and possibly $1 billion+, while we're focusing on Disney's prodigious use of the plus sign), you might think that Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, would have a few things to say about it. And you'd be right.

I sat down with the Disney honcho to get his take on how the program has been going, what tips he has for guests using the program, future applications, and more. Read my interview with Tom Staggs about MyMagic+.

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Photo: Disney. Used with permission.

What Is the "+" in FastPass+?

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Over the past few weeks, Disney has completely rolled out its FastPass+ program, part of its ambitious MyMagic+ vacation planning program for Walt Disney World. FastPass+, which allows guests to book ride times and other park experiences before they even get to the parks, is the heart of the initiative.

If you will be coming to Mickey's Florida playground any time soon, you are going to find a radically altered ride reservation system (among many other changes). To help you get a handle on what's new and changed so that you can better plan your visit, check out my feature, Disney World's FastPass+ vs. FastPass: What is the Difference?.

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

Heigh Ho! New Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a Gem.

Wednesday May 7, 2014

The final entry and the centerpiece of New Fantasyland at Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is scheduled to open on May 28. I had the pleasure of previewing the ride at a press event last week, and I'm pleased to report that it is wonderful.

Among its groundbreaking features are coaster cars that pivot from side to side and animated characters whose features come to life through a startling overlay of projected imagery. Read my full review of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

Add Some Pixie Dust to MyMagic+

Tuesday May 6, 2014

I just returned from a press event at Disney World and got to see the MyMagic+ program in action. I have to say, it's quite amazing -- audacious even.

In order to make this thing work, every single hotel room door (and we're talking about 25,000-or-so rooms) had to be retrofitted with new electronic door locks, and every point-of-purchase location throughout the resort (and we're talking, oh I don't know, about a gazillion points of purchase) had to be outfitted with RFID sensors and keypad input devices. And then there is the My Disney Experience app that includes a map feature to show you where the nearest attractions are in relation to your location in the park and -- get this -- real-time standby wait times for the attractions. And that's just scratching the surface.

To help you get a handle on this powerful program and learn how to make the most of your next Disney World visit, I've developed a rundown of the best MyMagic+ tips. It includes strategies to consider before your visit and while you are at the resort and will help you become a power user.

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

Schlitterbahn's Slippery Road Runs Far and Wide

Monday April 28, 2014

Pioneers of the water park industry, the Henry family added some homegrown water slides to its summer vacation resort in New Braunfels, Texas in the late 1970s, called it "Schlitterbahn" (which means "slippery road" in German as an homage to the heritage of the people who lived in the community), and watched as streams of visitors came to frolic in the water. Today, the family has developed its flagship location into one of the world's biggest and best water parks and launched a chain of other resorts throughout Texas and Kansas. Read about Schlitterbahn water parks.

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Photo: Arthur Levine.

Ver...What? How Tall?

Friday April 25, 2014

The Schlitterbahn folks made it official today. After teasing the height of Verruckt, which they had already announced would be the tallest water slide in the world, the water park chain said that the ride would top out at...timpani rolls...168 feet, 7 inches. Yikes. That's going to be a looooong way down -- and a lot of stairs to climb.

Know for its innovative water park attractions, Schlitterbahn will be debuting its "mega blaster" slide at its Kansas City park in a few weeks. Passengers will brave the drop, which is taller than most roller coasters, in four-passenger rafts and then face the world's tallest water jet-propelled uphill water coaster hill. While Schlitterbahn has come clean on the height, it has yet to reveal the speed of the wacky ride, which is estimated will be in the neighborhood of 65 mph. Read more about Verruckt.

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Photo: Schlitterbahn.

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