As an Orlando native with a pass to the parks, it is easy to habitually visit Walt Disney World, driving around with your own car, parking in the normal theme park parking lots and visiting the parks for a few hours before leaving... It isn't often that we get the chance or take the time (and money) to stay onsite at one of the resort hotels and stop to experience Walt Disney World as a resort guest. The convenience of a MagicBand being your room key, your park admission, your FastPass, your PhotoPass and your method of payment. Being able to take the bus from your resort and never moving your personal car from its spot at your hotel. Waking up and having breakfast at your resort, going to the parks for a few hours and coming back to the pool.
If you'd believe it, I'd never experienced this in my adult life despite living within 20 minutes distance of Walt Disney World my entire life. That changed this past weekend when my wife and I celebrated her birthday with a weekend staycation. Along the way we experienced some of the newest offerings at Walt Disney World and had a great time in the process!
Our room at Disney's Art of Animation Resort, in the Little Mermaid section of the resort.
All of the room elements are in theme...
Notice the sheet music!
Even the shower is themed!
A look out towards the pool in the Little Mermaid section of Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
Our first evening was spent at Disney's Hollywood Studios, checking out Toy Story Land for my wife's first time (my second time in the new land as well) but first... We thought this was a good idea!
We were able to snag some FastPasses that night, including one for Toy Story Mania. The new entrance from inside of Toy Story Land leads you through a few new themed spaces.
I really love these new murals!
Lots of new details to find!
Despite the third track being open for over a year, this was the first time I've had the chance to experience it. The queue space and station are in a section of the building separate of the other two tracks but it looks very similar!
I won this round...
Time to head out into Toy Story Land!
The new exit path tells a little more of the Toy Story Mania playset story.
I love the old midway game set feel these graphics accomplish.
Throughout Toy Story Land you can see Green Army Men working on different operations.
It is a fun little element that offers a consistent element of discovery throughout the large land.
Really fun to look for these army men.
Time for some new hotness!
Ready to head into the queue for Alien Swirling Saucers!
More Green Army Men to be found!
Fans of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (or its many sister attractions) may recognize this blaster.
Hidden Mickey found!
Alien Swirling Saucers is the same kind of ride as Mater's Junkyard Jamboree in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.
Lots of little details throughout the ride path...
Slinky Dog Dash spans the length of the new land and looks great at night!
It is a really fun addition to the park!
Andy's Lunch Box has some fun details as well.
Some character designs from the Woody's Roundup show (and Toy Story Mania) can be found in the form of animal crackers in the lunch box. I love this kind of consistency throughout the land.
A thermos is used to prop open the lunchbox for guests to enter.
Look at this ordering kiosk!
More army men!
Andy's Lunchbox normally offers a root beer float but if you ask, they will make it a float with any soda!
Something I didn't realize going into Toy Story Land on this night, was where the land was situated in relation to the fireworks launch site.
It is pretty neat that you get somewhat of a panoramic view of the nightly fireworks while in Toy Story Land.
Time to head into the queue for Slinky Dog Dash!
The story of the attraction is that Andy has taken his coaster playset and rigged Slinky around the coaster train to make the titular experience.
Quite the view!
You can see how Andy wrapped Slinky around the playset's coaster cars...
The map on the back wall of the station hints at some elements that may have originally been planned for the land.
This coaster's lighting package is excellent and makes the ride look fantastic at night!
The second launch show scene is my favorite element of the coaster.
The new queue entrance building for Toy Story Land.
And the main entrance of the attraction.
Time to head out!
And we're back for the night... Tomorrow we experience the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot for the first time!
Toy Story Land looks awesome. I'm glad Midway Mania's queue still looks good. I didn't realize they were rerouting it when I visited back in March, so it was quite a shock to be waiting next to plain white walls.
I also hadn't seen the what the Alien Swirling Saucer ride looked like. They really did an excellent job with the theming.
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I usually do day trips to the parks in Orlando or stay overnight with family in the area but I've got a couple nights at Caribbean Beach planned in September for our own version of a staycation weekend for my kids' birthdays. Been a while since I've stayed on property at Disney so we're really looking forward to just relaxing and hang out. We've got a lunch reservation in EPCOT but that's about it, just gonna show up hang at the resort and see what happens.
Next up was a new experience for us, the Behind the Seeds tour at Epcot! Most people that know about Epcot are familiar with the Living with the Land ride in The Land pavilion, but what many don't realize is that the park offers an up-charge walking tour of the pavilion's greenhouse. While you get to see a lot from the boats, getting an up-close experience in this sustainable environment is really a neat experience, even if you're not into greenery. Epcot has always been about the marriage of technology and science to better the future and it is incredible to see firsthand just how advanced the techniques within The Land are when it comes to cultivating produce, fish and even more. The tour is $25 per person and lasts nearly an hour and it is absolutely worth it! As someone that has been to Epcot more times than I could try to keep track of, doing something different in a place I've frequented so many times is a rarity and an exciting opportunity... This tour was one that I loved experiencing the first time and I'd definitely consider going back to do it again in the near future!
The Behind the Seeds tour starts off in an unexpected manner, focusing first on the cultivation of wasps that prevent Leafminer Flies from killing the produce in the greenhouse.
Like you see in the Living with the Land ride, scientists at Epcot actually cultivate wasps as a form of natural pesticide for the greenhouse.
The Leafminer Fly lays its eggs in the leaves of greenery and when the larvae hatch, they eat through the leaves.
The Parasitoid Wasp actually lays its eggs inside of the Leafminer Fly larvae, which live off of the growing larvae in a parasitic nature. The wasps grow off of the fly larvae and then exit the leaves...
The scientists at Epcot actually extract the larvae of both species to maintain an ongoing cultivation of both. The wasps are harmless to humans but keep the leafminer flies at bay, acting as a natural and sustainable pesticide for the greenhouse.
The remainder of the tour is spent in the greenhouse seeing areas up-close that you can only see at a glance from the boat.
Hanging produce is something of a science here, but it yields extraordinary results.
Even the greenery gets to go on a ride at Epcot!
The hanging roots move slowly into a water station where they are lightly sprayed as they pass by. The water enters the plants via the roots while not requiring a physical environment of soil to anchor it.
Hydroculture, the growth of plants with nutrient-rich water below is something that Epcot actively practices.
A surprise for the tour was a sampler of fresh cucumbers grown in the greenhouse!
It isn't uncommon to see tomatoes growing on a vine...
But the method in which they grow these tomatoes is incredible effective...
And yields huge results!
These heads of lettuce grow to source many of the salads used in the restaurants at Epcot!
Mites don't often have a positive connotation to their name, but these are good mites that help keep the produce safe from other pests.
Crazy to see how these vines grow naturally into a full canopy strong enough to sustain 20-plus pound melons.
Ever see passionfruit grow?
This is the flower of a passionfruit!
Anyone like coffee?
How about a nine pound lemon?
This fruit is known as the Buddha's Hand.
Ever see a dark sunflower?
Heading into the aquaculture section of Living with the Land.
Some of the largest shrimp cultivated here...
Hidden Mickey from the other side!
Catfish are cultivated here too!
A very different perspective than I'm used to!
See these fish?
You get to help feed them!
Time to head into the last and largest portion of the greenhouse! The date palm is the largest plant in Living with the Land and requires a special crew to harvest the dates that grow towards the top of the tree.
Fresh bananas (Living with the Land is sponsored by Chiquita Brands International)!
Ever see cacao in its natural form?
How about dragonfruit?
A closer look at the date palm...
And the clusters of dates growing underneath it!
I loved getting to experience the greenhouse from this side of the attraction!
There's even an interactive element of the tour where you get to guess spices!
Think you know what this one is?
It is saffron! It is super expensive and is considered a luxury spice. These photos show the effort it takes to harvest the spice itself from the plant.
Not so hidden Mickey!
This is a huge fluted pumpkin!
I can't look away!
Dragonfruit up close.
Any grape lovers out there?
And the final surprise of the tour, is Stanley... Stanley (his nickname) is a plant that naturally closes its leaves to protect them from falling off or being damaged during storms.
When the whole plant is shaken, within seconds it looks like this!
This was our favorite element of the tour and one that we asked to revisit on our way out because it was so neat to see!
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
Wow, what a really cool behind the scenes tour! Thanks for passing on a lot of your new knowledge about plants and the various things they grow there. The part about wasps was very interesting. With Stanley, how long until the leaves unfold again after closing up? It couldn't have been too long since you asked to see it happen again at the end of the tour. Plants are fascinating and what Disney is doing of course is always amazing work.
WOW you lucky people, you! Definitely the behind scenes tour we would go for, if there.
Thanks for sharing all that you saw and experienced during the tour and all of your visit there.
And I have to add...we used to have one or two "Sensitive Plants" in our house, and the mere touch of one leaf with your pinkie would send the whole thing into shutdown! Then it would slowly unravel itself.
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