A World of Shortcuts

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Go that way!  No, go this way!  Left!  Right!  LOOK OUT!!!"  Navigating Walt Disney World can be as difficult as understanding an American Express credit card application.  There are pathways, bridges, and crowds to consider when making your way through one of the 4 theme parks and Downtown Disney.  For seasoned Walt Disney World veterans you may know how to get around between lands and other sections of the park.  Like everything else at Walt Disney World the theme park design was done for a reason.  It had a lot to do with traffic flow and organization.  Walt Disney first pioneered the theme park design after a hub and spoke model in Disneyland so guests could move in a more orderly fashion and to keep the themed lands more organized.  Costumed Cast Members could stay in their themed land without crossing over into another land and become out of character ruining the theme for other guests.  But, from a guest's perspective the theme park organization really allows us to move fluently through the themed lands like a well oiled machine. 

When you are on vacation time is critical.  In order to make efficient use of your time you really need to save every second you can.  This includes taking the straightest path to your destination or avoiding crowds so you can move quicker.  Walt Disney World is full of pathways or other alternatives for you to get to where you need to be faster.  This even includes getting from your resort hotel to a theme park or vice-versa.  For first time guests or even guests who've only visited a few times they are probably not aware of these shortcuts or time saving techniques to get around the parks and resorts.  This is where a seasoned Disney World veteran can take advantage of saving time since several guests won't be using these shortcuts.  They will be, for the most part, open for you to use so you can get what you want accomplished in a much more timely fashion.  Just remember, during peak times of the year like over Christmas, Spring Break, and other major holidays even the shortcuts can fill-up, but they still shouldn't be as bad as the main and most recognizable pathways.

So, what are the most beneficial ways to get around or to save time in Walt Disney World?  There are plenty to consider.  Seasoned Disney World visitors have their favorite ways to get around.  In some cases it's really a matter of opinion and what you are trying to accomplish.  Here are my top 5 shortcuts for getting around and saving time at Walt Disney World.  Keep in mind some of these shortcuts are timely meaning you'll get better results based on when you use them, but for the most part they are effective. 

Number - 5

Future World East & West Pathways to World Showcase

These pathways are visible to several guests, but for some reason many guests choose to go back through to Future World Plaza and take the main path at the center of EPCOT connecting Future World to World Showcase.  If you have a Fastpass for Soaring or Test Track later in the day you'll want to get to those attractions via these pathways.  If you simply want to leave Future World East or West you can get to World Showcase by snaking through these peaceful and tranquil pathways.  Both provide great scenery of EPCOT, especially during EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival held each spring.  My only complaint about these pathways is they get narrow at certain points and therefore can get congested. 

Number - 4

The Souvenir Shops at Hollywood Studios & the Magic Kingdom

Both the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have souvenir shops on either side of Main St. USA and Hollywood Blvd.  Timing is key with these shortcuts.  If there is a parade going up or down these streets you'll want to utilize the interconnected souvenir shops as your pathway in or out of the parks.  Okay...I can hear some of you screaming at your computer monitor.  "The shops are crowded too!!!"  Well, at times they are crowded, plus you have to navigate around souvenir and candy racks, but considering the alternative of walking up a very crowded Main St. or Hollywood Blvd the souvenir shops can provide you a much quicker entrance or exit to the parks.  Don't forget the shops are air conditioned and it can give you a quick blast of refreshing cool air while you make your way to your destination. 

Number - 3

Downtown Disney & EPCOT Guest Service Locations

With so many theme park ticket transactions or other guest service needs most guests will visit a Guest Service location at some point during their trip.  Most unknowledgeable guests will want to visit the guest services locations at the front of each theme park.  This is because they believe this is the only place where a Guest Service location exists.  However, there are two other locations less frequented by visitors to Disney World.  Downtown Disney's Marketplace and EPCOT's International Gateway (EPCOT's back door) both provide Guest Service locations with typically much shorter lines.  If you find yourself needing to visit Guest Services consider visiting Downtown Disney early in your trip and stopping by their Guest Service location or if you are going to EPCOT try to enter through the International Gateway and use that Guest Service location.  The lines will be much more manageable than using Guest Service locations at the front of the theme parks. 

Number - 2

Rain Forest Cafe Entrance

Over at Disney's Animal Kingdom is a Rain Forest Cafe near the entrance to the park.  If you are arriving to the park just before or right at park opening time you may want to consider entering the Rain Forest Cafe and walking to the back of the gift shop where there are a few park entrance turnstiles.  These turnstiles were installed for Rain Forest Cafe guest convenience, however they are for anyone to enjoy.  If the regular front entrance is jam packed with guests trying to enter the park using the Rain Forest Cafe entrance can save you a lot of time.  You won't have to wait in a long line to get into the park and you can beat some guests to your favorite attractions as the day begins. 

Number - 1

Sitting Near Show Exits

Some of you may consider this a tip rather than a shortcut.  I consider it a shortcut in the sense it's going to save you a lot of time by avoiding a huge crowd after your show is over.  If you view your show next to the exit you'll be able to give the crowd the slip when the show is over by leaving your seat and immediately exiting the venue.  As everyone is trying to get out of the venue you'll be in front of the crowd like a Deon Sanders interception return for a touchdown moving to your next attraction.  The best example of this shortcut is in the Festival of the Lion King.  Since the venue is a theater-in-the-round setup your seats next to the exit doors are just as good as everyone else.  If you are near the exit when the show ends you'll be out the door in about 5 steps while other guests have to maneuver across the main stage floor.  Make sure to know where the exit doors are when you enter the venue so you can get as close as possible to them.     

As you can plainly see there are some great ways to get where you need to go in a timely fashion while dodging the crowds.  I've only listed 5 shortcuts, but I know there are several more.  Do you have a great shortcut at Walt Disney World you wish to share?  Please leave yours in the comments section below or on our studioscentral.com official Facebook page.  Just be careful.  The more you publicize your shortcut the more it won't be a shortcut anymore.  It may get too popular and congested. 

One of the best aspects of Walt Disney World is discovery.  You may even stumble across a great shortcut while frolicking through a theme park, resort, or even Downtown Disney.  Keep your eyes and ears open because your next shortcut discovery maybe right around the corner. 

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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