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Update for April 16 – 22, 2012

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News and Views

Test Track closes for lengthy makeover | Animal Kingdom-based game debuts on Facebook | A Personal Appeal, Year Seven: Last Weeks! | Disney Cruise Line to eliminate Palo High Tea | US Airways Vacations to give away one million miles, Walt Disney World vacation for four | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Test Track closes for lengthy makeover

Yesterday was Test Track's last day of operation as we currently know it. The popular Epcot attraction has now closed, and with it, its "sponsored by General Motors" branding removed from the attraction. When it reopens this fall, the attraction will be sponsored specifically by GM's Chevrolet. The attraction is being redesigned to provide guests with more of an opportunity to design vehicles before riding their design through the test track.


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Since one of the park's big draws unavailable for five months or so, Epcot is rolling out some compensating strategies. Starting today, the entire Land pavilion remains open until 10 p.m., one hour past park closing. This includes Soarin', Living with the Land, Circle of Life, and dining options. In addition, the Epcot Character Spot is also open through 10 p.m. We are also hearing that a new a capella group called "Test Track All-Stars" may be performing near the attraction throughout the day. Depending on the response to these options by park guests, the offerings could change during the course of the attraction closure.

Animal Kingdom-based game debuts on Facebook

Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers debuted last week on Facebook. The new game from the Playdom arm of the Disney Interactive Media Group allows players to create their own nature preserve (each starting with the Tree of Life from Disney's Animal Kingdom) and play hidden-object games by themselves and against other players.

Some of the games are based at locations from the theme park at Walt Disney World, while others are from a variety of locations and habitats around the globe. Park-oriented locations are based on various spots in Harambe and Anandapur. Players can become "neighbors," visit preserves created by other players, give eather other gifts, challenge each other to spotting games, and more.

Players are rewarded for placing foliage favored by wildlife near those animals on their preserve. In addition, placing animals that cohabitate well adjacent to each other will also earn extra points.

Prior to the game's release, the game's Facebook page noted that "Playdom, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will donate .20 to the Jane Goodall Institute for the Disneynature Tchimpounga Natural Reserve project for each install and tutorial completion of customers who play the Animal Kingdom game on Facebook as referred from the URL www.PlayAnimalKingdom.com during the promotion term of April 12 - 26, 2012. Minimum to be contributed: $100,000 with a maximum of $250,000."


The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival features Fantasia theming in the main entry planter, with Sorcerer Mickey rising high above the brooms. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


While it's hard to guess which might be Hyacinth and Ben Ali, hippos and gators dance in the entry planter. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


The Fantasia theming of the entry planter at Epcot begins outside the gates with the Chinese mushrooms. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Park guests leaving Epcot are bid farewell by these elephants at the back end of the entry planter. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

A Personal Appeal, Year Seven: Last Weeks!

There is nothing more heartbreaking than a baby who is born too soon having medical complications that leave them with medical difficulties for life, or worse, that never let them leave the hospital alive. On April 29, I will spend my birthday walking to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners have helped me to raise over $20,000 for the worthy charity over the last six years. This year, my goal is to raise another $5,000. My dollar-for-dollar donation matching offer raised over $1,100 in qualifying donations, resulting in over $2,200 for the March of Dimes!

You can also walk with me, either in person or virtually, by joining Team MousePlanet and getting your friends and family to contribute! You can go to my fundraising page to sponsor me, or the Team MousePlanet page to join in and walk yourself! Help us to provide a better chance to prevent prematurity and to help those babies that are born prematurely!


The Jammitors are performing their Epcot Jammin' Gardeners set during the Flower & Garden Festival. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy topiaries are posed outside the Festival Center. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


A Stitch topiary says hi from near the entrance to Mission: Space. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Send us your menu photos

Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to menus@mouseplanet.com to help us keep our listings updated.


Farmer Mickey and Minnie topiaries grace the front planter in World Showcase Plaza. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Donald and Daisy topiaries "water" plants in the eastern planter in World Showcase Plaza. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


The western planter in World Showcase Plaza features a Pluto topiary. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Disney Cruise Line to eliminate Palo High Tea

Last Thursday afternoon, Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix posted on the MousePad discussion forums:

Interesting news today from from a friend at Disney Cruise Line. The Disney Cruise Line has decided to eliminate the Palo High Tea option on all four ships. The change begin with the July 22 sailing of the Disney Dream, and rolls out to the Disney Magic starting with the August 10 sailing, and the Wonder and Fantasy starting with the August 13 sailings. The Disney Dream had already begun taking reservations for the first few sailings impacted by this change, and I'm not sure how DCL is handling that—if they're offering those people who booked High Tea a brunch instead, or if they're just cancelling the reservation. Bookings for the impacted sailings on the other three ships just opened today (Magic) or will begin tomorrow (Wonder, Fantasy).

In a way, it's surprising that this change hadn't been made earlier. With Palo's brunch being their most popular meal, it was only a matter of time before Disney Cruise Line found a way to accommodate more brunch seatings.

For more information or to weigh in on the topic, join the discussion.

US Airways Vacations to give away one million miles, Walt Disney World vacation for four

US Airways Vacations is running a sweepstakes that gives away one million Dividend Miles and a Walt Disney World vacation for four. The grand prize includes round-trip first class air transportation for four on US Airways, four nights at a select Disney resort, one VIP tour at each park for four people, four park hopper tickets, and a $500 Disney gift card.

Anyone booking a US Airways Vacations package with airfare to Walt Disney World Resort between April 9 and June 4 is automatically entered into the drawing, but you can also enter daily at the US Airways Vacations website. However, residents of New York, Florida, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico and other U.S. possessions or territories are not eligible for entry. You also see the sweepstakes rules online.


Park guests approaching the France pavilion from the International Gateway bridge will find Cinderella and her prince on the south side of the end of the bridge. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Prince Philip are on the north side of the end of the bridge. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


Belle, Beast, and other characters from Beauty and the Beast can be found in the gardens on the north side of the France pavilion. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Construction update

The following is a listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom Fantasy Faire – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Fantasyland – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom meet-n-greet – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Tom Sawyer Island – construction.
  • Magic Kingdom Le Chapeau – marquee sign.
  • Magic Kingdom Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – facility graphics.
  • Magic Kingdom Pirates of the Caribbean – construction.
  • Epcot GM Test Track – construction.
  • Epcot Innoventions East – Vision House marquee.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Toy Story Midway Mania – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Star Tours – mechanical.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Dinosaur – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Oasis anteater building and wallaby and deer building – roof coating.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Tree of Life animal holding – roof coating.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom cheetah, warthog, and white rhino buildings – roof coating.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom elephant building – hydraulic piping upgrade.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom elephant building – attachment of I-beam to wall above door "B".
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Conservation Station Affection Section barn, outdoor exhibit area, shade structures – roofing.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom forage warehouse #24 – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom dry bird quarantine – construction.
  • Yacht & Beach Club Resorts Stormalong Bay bridge – carpentry.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort all lodging buildings – mechanical.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort Ol' Man Island pool building – mechanical.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort – lobby pods sign lights.
  • Team Disney (sundial) building – Media Staging 1 graphics.


Walt Disney Imagineering has posted a new time-lapse video of the construction of New Fantasyland. Beast's Castle and Belle's Village are to the left, Prince Eric's Castle for Voyage of the Little Mermaid is to the right. Early work on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is in front of Prince Eric's Castle. Most of the work on the castle courtyard wall is hidden behind objects in the foreground.

Quick takes …

…Continuing work on the Disney Vacation Club expansion at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort will result in further daytime closures of the Magic Kingdom monorail loops. Based on letters being received by guests scheduled to stay at monorail resorts, it appears that the shutdowns will begin on Monday, April 30. We do not have any information about the duration of the outages at this time.

…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun MouseAdventure bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, go to the MousePlanet main page and enter your email address in the top right box labeled "Join the MousePlanet Newsletter." Click Join, then fill out the fields in the registration page, including your first and last name. The Newsletter is free, but you must complete this registration to receive it, even if you may have signed up for one with us in the past.


"Auto-topiaries" of Mater and Lightning McQueen are located directly in front of the Japan pavilion's Torii Gate. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.


The Haiti: Garden of Many Colors showcase features Haitian plant life, art, and refreshments. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

…The 2013 Princess Half Marathon weekend takes place February 22-24, 2013. No word yet on a registration opening date for the race.

…Registration for the January 10-13, 2013, Disney Marathon Weekend is now open.

…Registration for the November 9-10 Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is now open.

…Registration for the September 28–29 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend is 87 percent full. Space is filling fast! If you're interested in running it, you may want to register now to avoid being closed out.

…Registration for the May 5 the Expedition Everest Challenge is now full for both the team and individual divisions. The Kids' Races are 70 percent full.

Crowd update

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Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."

Crowd levels fall this week as we move away from the busy Spring Break season. TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 5 / 10
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 5 / 10
Thursday, April 19, 2012 6 / 10
Friday, April 20, 2012 7 / 10

Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • Avoid Magic Kingdom on Wednesday.
  • If visiting Epcot, remember that Test Track is closed now Fall 2012; plan your FASTPASS strategy accordingly.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.


 

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Coming up

  • Through May 20: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • April 27–29: Cheerleading and Dance Worlds.
  • May 5: Expedition Everest Challenge.
  • May 18 to June 10: Fridays through Sundays: Star Wars Weekends.
  • May 31: Finding Nemo wing of Disney's Art of Animation Resort opens.
  • June 18: Cars wing of Disney's Art of Animation Resort opens.
  • August 10: The Lion King wing of Disney's Art of Animation Resort opens.
  • September 7-8: Night of Joy.
  • September 11, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28, 30, October 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, November 1. Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
  • September 15: The Little Mermaid wing of Disney's Art of Animation Resort opens.
  • September 28–29: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend.
  • September 28 to November 11: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
  • November 9–10: Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend.
  • November 22, 23, 25: Old Spice Classic.
  • December 13: Disney Vacation Club Condominium Association annual meeting.
  • January 10–13, 2013: Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
  • February 22-24, 2013: Disney's Princess Half Marathon.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Storybook Circus – is now open on the former site of Mickey's Toontown.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment through May 20.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment through May 27.
  • Snow White's Scary Adventures – closes permanently on May 31 for conversion to Princess Fairy Tale Hall.
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin – closed for refurbishment June 27-28

Epcot

  • House of Innoventions – closed through May for conversion to "green home."
  • Tutto Italia – closed through April 27.
  • Test Track – closed through September for "reimagining."

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – closed for refurbishment April 29 to May 2.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known current closures.

Resorts

  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed through mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Wilderness Lodge – metal roof seams recoated thorough June 29.
  • Beach Club Resort – Cape May Cafe closed for refurbishment July 9 through August 3.
  • Yacht & Beach Club Resorts – a portion of the Stormalong Bay pool and the Shipwreck Slide closed for refurbishment April 9 through April 23. Guests that wish to use a pool slide as part of their resort pool experience can use the Luna Park pool at the BoardWalk Resort.
  • Yacht Club Resort Yachtsman Steakhouse – closed for refurbishment August 27 through September 15.
  • Yacht Club Resort – building exterior repaired and refinished through August 3.
  • Yacht Club Resort – rooftop HVAC hot water piping replaced January 9 to September 28.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – villa buildings undergo exterior cleaning and painting one at a time between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through August 30.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – rockwork painting at High Rock Springs Pool through April 24.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort – the Carriage House lobby repainted through April 16.
  • Old Key West Resort – South Point leisure pool closed April 23-24. All other pools at the resort will remain open.
  • Fort Wilderness Campground & Resort Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue – closed for refurbishment August 5 through December 31.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter Resort – building 3 parking lot undergoes rejuvenation through April 27.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – lobby/atrium refurbishment in commercial building April 9 through May 25.
  • Port Orleans - Riverside Resort – Magnolia Bend building 80 undergoes exterior repair and repainting from February 16 to April 19.
  • Coronado Springs Resort – Ranchos buildings experiences tile roof repair and replacement through July 27.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool through September 28. The pool remains open during the work, but some small sections of the pool deck will be closed periodically throughout this period.

Water Parks

  • No current closures.

Elsewhere

  • Lake Buena Vista Golf Course – closed May 7-17 for refurbishment.
  • Magnolia Golf Course – closed May 14-23 for refurbishment.
  • Palm Golf Course – closed May 29 through June 8 for refurbishment.
  • Oak Trail Golf Course – closed May 29 through September 28 for refurbishment.
  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. For 2012, the show is not be performed:
    • May 15–26
    • July 24
    • September 18–22
    • November 27

Current Discounts & Promotions

Discounted rooms and packages released for summer

Two new discounts have been released for this summer, one for room and ticket packages and one for room-only reservations. Both discounts are available for stays most nights from June 15 through August 14 and must be booked by June 14.

Discounts on package stays are available for a minimum stay of three nights and a minimum Magic Your Way base ticket of two days. These rates are available for June 15 through August 4 at Value and Moderate Resorts and July 15 and August 14 at Deluxe and Deluxe Villas Resorts. This discount does not include Disney's Art of Animation Resort.

Room-only discounts are available for June 15 through August 4 (Value Resorts) or August 14 (Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas Resorts). Discounts are 15 percent at Value Resorts, 20 percent at Moderate Resorts, and 25 percent at Deluxe and Deluxe Villas Resorts. This discount does not include suites and 3 bedroom Grand Villas.

No other discounts or group rates apply. The number of discounted rooms at these rates are limited, and additional minimum stay lengths may apply for weekend arrivals.

Both packages use discount code C8Q.

For the discounted packages, you can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-4990 or your favorite travel agent.

For the room-only discounts, you can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1920 or your favorite travel agent.

MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Florida resident ticket discount

Florida residents can take advantage of a special 3- or 4- day ticket at discounted prices through late May. The "Wild for 3" (and "Wild for 4") tickets are available for purchase through May 21, and are valid for admission any three (or four) days through May 24, excluding blackout dates. The tickets are not valid February 18-20 and April 1-13 due to high crowd levels.

The Wild for 3 Pass ($99 plus tax) and Wild for 4 ($129 plus tax) passes are good at any one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks each day, but without park hopping privileges. Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More options can be added for $27.50 each ($55 for both).

Proof of Florida residency is required for each adult age 18 and older. The discounted price applies to both adults and children.

Free dining offers for late August through late September

Walt Disney World is offering free dining with packages for Disney Visa card members and the general public. The offer is valid for stays most nights from August 25 through September 29, 2012. As with the most recent offers, guests staying at Value resorts receive a free Quick Service Dining Plan, while guests staying in Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa accommodations receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. Guests can upgrade their dining plan for the usual difference in price between each dining plan.

The offer is only available for packages including room, tickets, and dining, and all members of the party much purchase the same package and tickets. Minimum length of stay is three nights with two-day base tickets; maximum stay on the package is 14 days. Some blackout dates apply.

Suites and campsites are not included in this offer, and you must book by May 18 to get this offer.

For the general-availability packages, you can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-7414 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code B7H (for Value resorts) or SS5 (for Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts).

Disney Visa card members can make reservations through the Disney Visa Rewards website or by calling (407) 939-1881 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code L69 (for Value resorts) or B7I (for Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts).

MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Passholder room discounts available through June

A Passholder discount is available for most dates March 9 through June 14. The nights of April 1 to 14 and May 25 to 31 are not available due to peak travel periods of Easter break and Memorial Day week.

Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites and 3- bedroom Grand Villas are not included.

You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-1876 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code RX2. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Tables in Wonderland members can save on tickets to La Nouba

Tables in Wonderland members can purchase discounted Category 2 tickets La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil on performances Tuesday through Saturday nights, from April 17 to May 11. Prices for members and up to 3 guests are $66.75 plus tax for adults and $54.00 plus tax for children. To purchase tickets, call 407-WDW-SEAT (407-939-7328). Note that a valid Tables in Wonderland ID and advance purchase is required. Tickets must be picked up at the La Nouba box office Will Call window.

Military ticket offer

From now through September 28, 2012, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.

The tickets expire and may not be used after September 30, 2012. Blackout dates are April 1 to 12, 2012; and July 4, 2012.

Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.

The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.

For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call 407-939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Mark here.


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(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)

Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.