Mar 232016
 

By Tim Rogers

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So you’re taking a trip to Walt Disney World – great! One of the first things to think about is when you actually want to go. While for some people that is determined narrowly by work and school schedules, if you have more flexibility, the yearly calendar at Walt Disney World provides a wide range of special events and activities to make your trip special. While I won’t be discussing all of these (sorry marathon!), I will take you through some of the big times of year and why you should go then.

 

Spring

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There’s no time like the present – Spring has definitely sprung around the Walt Disney World resort. The biggest and most noticeable special occurrence during this time of year is the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

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As seems to be the case with several of these festivals, the Flower and Garden Festival seems to get a little longer every year. This year, the festival began on March 2nd and will run through May 30th. This will cover most spring breaks and even last past when some early schools get out for the summer, and includes some relatively “low crowd” times, and some of the busiest times of the entire year (the week before and after Easter).

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At the festival itself, there are plenty of things to explore and enjoy. The most noticeable might be the wonderful topiaries that populate all of Epcot.

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Beyond that, the festival center has special speakers and exhibits related to horticulture. Additionally, on weekends you can see the “Garden Rocks” Concert series. The bonus is that, for this festival, pretty much all of these speakers, concerts, and exhibits are included with normal park admission.

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Some of the most recent, and popular, additions to the festival are the Outdoor Kitchens. These booths have great treats from around the world, and have given the beauty and educational value of Flower and Garden some of the energy that the Food and Wine Festival has enjoyed for years.

 

Early Fall

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Fall at the Walt Disney World resort is when the special events really pick up. The first of these is usually Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This party takes place in the Magic Kingdom, generally on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, from early to mid-September through the day after Halloween.

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The party itself features special character meets, trick or treating, a great parade and fireworks, and more. You do need a special ticket to attend, and some of the nights do sell out in advance.

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Also in mid-September is the start of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Running this year from September 14th to November 14th, this festival is a huge draw and you will routinely see the Epcot Area Resorts completely full throughout the duration.

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You can expect a few things from this festival. First, the Eat to the Beat concert series, which happens pretty much every night throughout the festival and is included with your admission.

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At the festival center, you can explore and learn about all kinds of food related topics, but several of those will cost extra.

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The big draw for the festival, however, has to be the kiosks. Located generally around the World Showcase, and spreading a little bit into Future World last year, these kiosks provide an incredible range of international food and beverage offerings.

 

Late Fall/Winter

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The Food and Wine Festival ends up overlapping slightly the next big activity, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. In fact, some visitors try to plan a trip every year that will let them attend the last Halloween Party, the first Christmas Party, and the Food and Wine Festival, while only staying for about a week.

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starts in early November and runs through just before Christmas. Its schedule is about the same as the Halloween Party schedule and also takes place in the Magic Kingdom. At the party you can expect special characters, shows, a parade and fireworks, all themed to the holidays.

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However, the holiday spirit at Disney World is not contained to the Christmas Party. Starting just after Thanksgiving, Epcot hosts the Candlelight Processional, a celebrity narrated telling of the story of Christmas, complete with choirs and an orchestra. Also in Epcot are special performers and storytellers to show and discuss holiday traditions from around the world.

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You can also get into the holiday spirit simply by visiting the hotels on Disney property, especially the deluxe ones. Here you will see beautiful trees and decorations, and some astounding gingerbread creations.

So what is the best time of year to go? As with anything, that is a personal question, and honestly there are no bad choices. I am a Christmas fanatic so it would be hard for me to not choose that first. The fall activities are more numerous than in Spring (if for no other reason than Halloween) and the parade and fireworks during the Halloween Party are thought by many to be the best that Disney does all year. However, it is hard to describe how beautiful and exciting the Flower and Garden Festival is. Really, what I am trying to say is no matter when you go, it will be great – just make sure you take advantage of all that is being offered!

Apr 082015
 

By Roye Ann Morris

Spring in Disney World

Our family of 6 spent the second week in March at the Walt Disney World Resort. In spite of the predicted crowds, we found most rides easy to get on, with waits of less than 20 minutes for all but the biggest headliners. As I looked back on our trip last week, the old wedding rhyme seemed to fit well with all the pieces of our trip!

Something Old

Although it’s something I’ve done more times than I can remember, walking through the gates of any of the parks never gets truly old. It’s more a feeling of coming home; the comfort of knowing where things are, my favorite places to eat or crowd-watch, the best way to get around the parks, the familiar sights and smells. We rode all our favorite rides, ate at some of our favorite restaurants, and watched the shows and fireworks we all love.

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The Flower and Garden Festival is one of our favorite times of the year, and as always, the beautiful blooms were a welcome relief from winter. It was good to see that Peter Pan was keeping an eye on Captain Hook!

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Another place that felt like home was the condo we rented for the week. When we go with the whole family, it makes more sense to stay off-site, not only for monetary reasons, but also for the extra room. This was our second stay at this particular resort, and having 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a full kitchen was perfect for us. An added bonus was that it only took about 5 minutes to drive from our door to the parks.

We were also able to experience some things we had not done before, which leads me to:

Something New

One of our new family favorites is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train! The ride was so much more than I expected, and every tiny detail made me and my family smile or catch our breath in wonder. We rode after dark, and the outside portions of the attraction were beautiful at night. I had read that the cars at the back of the train get the most motion during the ride, and we certainly found that to be true. In fact, my husband, who rode in the very last car, thought it was more thrilling than Big Thunder Mountain! I actually preferred the smooth motion of the Mine Train and its theming to any other coaster in the Magic Kingdom! It’s a fairly short ride, but worth every second.

We were able to accomplish all we wanted to do in one day at the Magic Kingdom with the short waits and good use of our FastPass+. About 20 minutes before the fireworks started, we found an uncrowded place to sit on the low wall of the entrance to the New Fantasyland. It turned out to be an amazing view of the fireworks, although a bit different from what we were used to. Standing between Cinderella’s Castle and the Beast’s Castle, the fireworks were being launched on both sides of us. It was neat to feel like we were right in the middle of the show.

And to add to the magic, the cast members who were beside us were directing the action like the conductors of an orchestra! They knew exactly which side the next shower of light would come from, and were entertaining everyone around. There were a few kids, one in a wheelchair, who were particularly impressed with their magic! After the fireworks ended, I saw one of the cast members down on his knees talking to the children. Just another way they go over and above to make a special moment for a guest.

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At Hollywood Studios, we made our way to the golden coach from the new Cinderella movie, on display for the spring. We decided not to stand in the long line for a picture, but it was fun to watch as each girl was handed a glass slipper on an elegant red cushion to pose with in front of the coach.

Our final something new was a meal at Spice Road Table, the new restaurant in the World Showcase. It’s located in Morocco, with outside tables right on the lagoon and tables indoors in front of huge windows, perfect for watching Illuminations. Each of our party ordered a different small plate, and we all shared and tasted each one. I don’t think there was anything we were disappointed with, although be prepared – the food is spicy! We will definitely be going back, hoping for an outside table to enjoy the fireworks.

Something Borrowed

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On our final day, we went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After riding and watching all our favorite attractions, we ‘borrowed’ a sky-blue convertible and had lunch in it at Sci-fi Dine-In Theatre. Our waiter was amazing! He took time to ask us where we were from, where we were headed and what our favorite part of the day had been. When he learned that we all loved Toy Story Midway Mania, he took the time to tell the kids about some of the ‘Easter Eggs’ hidden in the games. Now we can’t wait to go back and try to find them! The food was good as always; I branched out and got the Rueben and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. Everyone else stuck with the burgers, and there were no complaints. Too full for dessert, although some of them sounded tempting, we made our way to the exit. Which, sadly, brings me to:

Something Blue

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And that would be me, and the rest of the family, as we started the long drive home. Sure, it’s all fun and games till you have to leave, and your GPS gets lost in the maze of roads and tollways around Orlando. Maybe she (we call it she because she recalculates so often!) didn’t really want to leave, either! But we finally figured it out, and waved our goodbyes to the magic of Disney. It is hard to leave, no matter how tired we may be, but there is always the hope of another trip in the future. I think I’ll start planning it tomorrow!

 

 

Feb 202013
 

By Rikki Niblett

 

©Disney

©Disney

We are almost at that time!  Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is rapidly approaching with it beginning in just two short weeks, starting March 6th and lasting until May 19th. This year is the festival’s 20th anniversary and will feature some of the things that we all know and love, like the Butterfly Gardens, the topiaries, and the Flower Power Concert Series, but it will also feature quite a few new adventures too.  Let’s take a look at all that this year’s Festival will have to offer!

First off, I think the event that most people look forward to with Flower and Garden, is the topiaries.  These have always been a favorite of mine.  I still miss the days when topiaries could just be found at random all throughout the park.  But Disney certainly does help to make up for that during this time of year!

More than 100 topiaries will adorn the park, with a brand new entrance display including floral versions of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald

©Disney

©Disney

and  Daisy in a celebratory cookout scene.  The 14-foot-tall Goofy topiary will bobble an anniversary cake while Donald and Daisy play badminton, Mickey fires up the grill, Pluto swipes hot dogs and Minnie chills out on a colorful blanket of blossoms.

In addition, new for this year will be Mike and Sulley in topiary form promoting the upcoming movie Monsters University.  They will be found in the Future World walkway.  Plus, for

those who love Lightning McQueen and Mater, they will be found near the newly remodeled Test Track, along with a play area.  This year, Disney will be making it easier to see the topiaries, as they will be illuminating gardens and topiaries each evening. 

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©Disney

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