Feb 252015
 

By Rikki Niblett

 

Top 7 Best Things About the 2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

So, while most of us are still dealing with super freezing temperatures and piles and piles of snow, Walt Disney World is currently getting ready for the 2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. This year’s Festival takes place from March 4 through May 17. For this year, I feel like we will see quite a few new events, as well as some old standbys too. Details are still trickling out about this year’s event, so, I thought I would share with you my Top 7 Best Things About Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival. These are all things that I think you simply do not want to miss out on experiencing if you’re visiting the Festival this year!

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  • Topiaries: One of the key aspects, to me, about the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival are the topiary displays. These are gorgeously created plant sculptures which look like Disney characters, as well as other designs. This year, there will be a few new characters, such as Ann and Elsa from Frozen and my favorites, Chip n’ Dale. Of course, many guest favorite displays will be back too, such as Mickey, Minnie, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Snow White and more. These topiaries are incredible works of art and the best part is that they are scattered all around the park! You never know when you will run up on one. Don’t forget to take these beautiful designs in at night too, as they are illuminated in gorgeous light.
  • Garden Rocks Concert Series: What was once called the Flower Power Concert Series has been renamed as the Garden Rocks Concert Series. With the new name comes the new opportunity to introduce different and “more current” acts. (I say “more current” because I don’t think many of these artists have had a huge hit in like 20 years, but they are still fantastic artists that guests will enjoy.) Guests can expect to see acts like the Gin Blossoms, STARSHIP, John Secada, Taylor Dane, and of course, the perennial favorite…Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone. The concerts take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the American Gardens Theater at 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM and 8:00 PM.

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  • Outdoor Kitchens: The Outdoor Kitchens are relatively new to the Festival, but they have quickly become a smash hit. There are 11 different kiosks, in all and each one offers guests the opportunity to purchase fresh-inspired bites. I love this festival’s options because they focus on offering a lot on different fruits and veggies! Booths include (keep in mind, that this is not a full list, just a taste of what you can expect.):

Botanas Botánico (New!)

  • Seafood Ceviche
  • Cachapa con Queso
  • White Corn Arepa
  • Coconut Tres Leches
  • Polar Beer
  • La Tizana
  • Monte Paschoal Reserve Tannat
  • Monte Paschoal Natural Brut White Sparkling Wine
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Piggylicious Cupcake

 

The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews

  • Pulled pig slider with cole slaw
  • Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños
  • Smoked Debreziner Sausage
  • “Piggylicious” bacon cupcake with maple frosting and pretzel crunch featuring Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • Billy’s Chilies, Twisted Pine Brewing Company (Boulder, Colorado)
  • Floridian Hefeweizen
  • Category 3 IPA
  • Maple Bacon Stout
  • Beer Flight Featuring a Selection of Craft Beer
  • The Original Rib Shack Red Wine
  • Frozen Lemonade (with Palm Ridge Reserve Whiskey Optional)
  • R.C. Sweet Tea made with Twinings Cold-Brewed English Classic Tea

Urban Farm Eats

  • Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Almonds, and Goat Cheese
  • Quinoa Vegetable Naanwich with Arugula Pesto and Oven-Dried Tomatoes
  • Ghost pepper-dusted tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick It Up Rub
  • Urban Mary: Spicy Tomato Juice, Lime Juice, and Worcestershire, with shot of Vodka (optional)
  • Cucumber lemon spa water, finished with a sprig of fresh mint
  • Hess Shirtail Creek Vineyard, Chardonnay
  • King Estate Acrobat Pinot Noir
  • Crispin Blackberry Pear Cider

Pineapple Promenade

  • Spicy Hot Dog with Pineapple Chutney
  • Pineapple Soft Serve
  • Pineapple Soft Serve with Sammy’s Beach Bar Red Head Macadamia Nut Flavored Rum
  • Pineapple Soft Serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum
  • Frozen desert violet lemonade (nonalcoholic)
  • Ace Pineapple Hard Cider
  • Sparkling Pineapple Wine
  • Berry Tea Cocktail with Twinings Cold-Brewed Mixed Berry Tea

Fleur De Lys

  • Gnocchi Parisien à la Provençal – Parisian-style Dumplings with Vegetables and Mushrooms
  • Confit de Canard, Pommes de Terre Sarladaise – Pulled Duck Confit with Garlic and Parsley Potatoes
  • Macaron Guimauve à la Fraise, a Strawberry Marshmallow Macaron
  • Ice Pop Combination of French Peach Iced Tea, Grand Marnier Peach Raspberry Liqueur, and Vodka.
  • La Vie en Rose frozen slush – Vodka, Grey Goose Orange, St. Germain Liquor, and White and Red Cranberry Juice
  • Kir Imperial – Sparkling wine, Chambord and Black Raspberry Liquor
  • Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 – Fruity White Beer with Citrus Notes

Taste of Marrakesh

  • Falafel Pocket with Cucumber Tomato Salad and Tahini Sauce
  • Harissa Chicken Kebab with Couscous Salad
  • Pistachio Baklava
  • Mint iced tea
  • White sangria
  • Guerrouane red
  • Desert Rose — Sparkling Wine with Pomegranate Liqueur
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Frushi

 

Hanami

  • Frushi – Fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon, rolled with coconut rice, topped with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut and served with whipped cream on the side
  • Teriyaki Curry Bun
  • Salmon Sushi
  • Kirin draft beer
  • Yuzu Plum Wine Slush
  • Strawberry Nigori
  • Karatamba Sake

Primavera Kitchen

  • Pinwheel of Mozzarella, Prosciutto, Ciabatta Bread
  • Three cheese manicotti – Egg pasta stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce and béchamel
  • Lemon Panna Cotta
  • Placido Pinot Grigio
  • Placido Chianti
  • Bosco del Merlo Prosecco
  • Corbinello
  • White peach bellini – Prosecco and white peach puree
  • Strawberry rossini – Prosecco and marinated strawberries
  • Frozen Italian primavera – Assorted fruit slushy with limoncello and vodka
  • Moretti Lager
  • Moretti La Rossa

Florida Fresh

  • Watermelon salad with pickled onions, BW Farm baby arugula, feta cheese and balsamic reduction
  • Shrimp and stone ground grits with andouille sausage, sweet corn, tomatoes and cilantro
  • Florida Blueberry and Lemon Curd Tart
  • Watermelon passion fruit slush featuring Simply Lemonade
  • Key Lime Sparkling Wine
  • Blonde Ale
  • Channel Marker Red Ale
  • Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale (Festival exclusive)
  • Jai Alai
  • Beer Flight Featuring Florida Craft Beers
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Beijing-style Candied Strawberries

 

Lotus House

  • Beijing-style candied strawberries
  • Kung Pao Chicken Bun
  • Vegetable Spring Roll
  • Oolong Peach Bubble Tea
  • Kung Fu Punch – Vodka and triple sec with mango and orange juice
  • South Sea Storm – Guava juice with light and dark rum
  • Plum wine
  • Tsing-Tao beer
  • Honey Mango Wine Cooler

 

Jardin de Fiestas

  • Tacos al pastor – Corn tortilla filled with achiote-marinated pork, garnished with grilled diced pineapple, onions and cilantro
  • Vegetarian Quesadilla
  • Flan de chocolate Abuelita – Mexican chocolate custard
  • Tecate with Patrón Citrónge
  • White Mexican sangria
  • Blueberry Pomegranate Margarita
  • Tequila Liqueur Flight

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  • Ten New Gardens: This year’s festival will feature 10 all new themed gardens, such as a gnew healing-and-health garden, a pepper garden, a dinosaur-plant garden and a Shakespeare garden, among others. Each one will be designed with a different storytelling element in mind.

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  • Gardening Seminars: If you are looking for a way to learn from some of the best gardeners out there, then these gardening seminars are perfect for you! They will take place at the Festival Center each weekend and will include demonstrations and presentations in the late morning/early afternoon.
  • Beautiful Colors: One of the best parts about the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is to see color again…this is especially true with how cold and blah this winter has been. Guests will see lots of pops of color, from the quilted pattern that’s prevalent along the lake, to the front entry way display, to the flower towers and other mini set-ups scattered throughout the park. There’s just something so magical about seeing these wonderful colors once again. (Makes me feel like Spring really is around the corner!)

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  • Fun For Kids: For those who say this event is for the adults, think again! There are playgrounds, like the Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden and Cactus Road Rally Garden with Mater and Lightning McQueen. There’s also the infamous Butterfly Garden where little ones can see both butterflies, as well as get a first-hand view of cocoons and learn something about the process. Of course, if the kiddos are feeling adventurous, consider picking up a Garden Passport (this could be for the adults too!) and have them get the passport stamped after trying something from each of the Outdoor Kitchens! This is a great way to have them maybe try things they wouldn’t normally try by turning it into a game!

As you can see, there are a ton of reasons to visit this year’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival…but don’t just take my word for it! What is your favorite reason to experience this festival? Make sure to let us know!

Dec 312014
 

A Walt Disney World Year In Review - 2014 Month By Month

By Rikki Niblett

Wow…2014 has come and gone…how did it happen so fast? One day we’re waiting on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to open, the next day, it’s got hour plus waits all day, every day. It truly has been a fantastic year in the Walt Disney World community, so let’s take a look, month by month at some of the highlights.

Spice Road Table

January

  • Avatarland broke ground: Was Avatarland going to happen? We got our answer when ground officially broke, with many Disney dignitaries and a Na’vi posing with the shovels. Looks like we really are moving forward with this new land. Now, we wait until 2017 until the area opens.
  • Spice Road Table opens: This new restaurant, located in the Morocco Pavilion at Epcot opened with tepid reviews. Recently, Disney revamped the menu and began allowing for Advanced Dining Reservations, so we’ll see if that helps to increase the number of patrons at this restaurant.

February

  • Bye PUSH: It was a strange removal. One second, we heard the rumors that PUSH the talking trash can would be leaving, the next Disney said he was staying, then a few days later, the interactive character was pulled. We’ll miss you PUSH. Thanks for the fun memories and conversations.

Festival of Fantasy Parade Maleficent

March

  • The debut of the Festival of Fantasy Parade: Wow! That’s really all you can say about this parade. (And this comes from someone who’s not a parade person.) This parade brought so much to the table. It brought multiple princesses, swinging ruffians, colorful floats, lots of dancing, and of course, a fire-breathing dragon. How does it get much better? This was a cool parade.

April

  • Anna and Elsa move to the Magic Kingdom: And thousands and thousands of guests lined up to meet them. This meet and greet quickly saw wait times of a few hours. The opening of the park quickly became an orderly walk back to Fantasyland, as all guests wanted to do was meet Anna and Elsa and ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (more on that.) Moving these two to Princess Fairytale Hall was a slam dunk idea. And little girls everywhere are super happy when they get the chance to meet their favorite Disney sisters.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

May

  • New announcements: We had quite a few new things announced this month, including Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Trader Sam’s Grotto Grog at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Now we wait for the future when those both appear.
  • Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade ends: This was a sad day; the end of the parade for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The reason behind the removal was due to construction taking place at the park (understandable), but we still miss getting to see an afternoon parade here.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train debuts: Yay! This was the one we were all waiting for…for months and months…and months. Finally, the day came at the end of May. The attraction is super cute and features some incredibly impressive AudioAnamatronics. I expected the swaying motion to make the attraction more intense, but it really just helps the whole thing to glide better. It’s rollicking fun for the whole family.

Festival of the Lion King

June

  • Festival of the Lion King debuts in new theater: The show had been down for refurb for the majority of the year to this point, but I have to say that this new area is simply gorgeous! Disney got the theming perfect. It really feels like the building has been there forever. And what’s great is that the show didn’t change too terribly much, so that’s good too. A better experience and the same show we know and love? Again, how do you get much better.

Frozen Summer Fun Live

July

  • Introduction of the Frozen Summer Fun Live events: The smash hit of Frozen brought this smash summer success. (Rumor is this event was throw together in just a few weeks.) The event brought us a fun parade, a stage show called “For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration”, a dance party, and a merchandise location themed after Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post from the movie. This event was so popular it was extended and then some pieces continue on to this day. (The sing along and Wandering Oaken’s.) It really was good Frozen fun.

August

  • American Idol Experience Closes: That was a quick closure. It had been said originally that the attraction would be closing in January, but then it was announced that it would be closing a full six months earlier. Many rejoiced as the attraction closed, given that most wondered why the attraction was introduced in the first place.

Backlot Tour

September

  • Backlot Tour Closes: Another surprise closure! One that really came out of the blue. The Backlot Tour closed with minimal lead time. While the attraction had been cut down multiple times throughout the years, it was still sort of sad to see an opening day attraction close down, no matter how sad of shape it was in.

Canadian Lumberjack Show

October

  • Maelstrom Closes to make way for a Frozen attraction: The rumors had been swirling for about a year, but it seemed as though the rumors were true. Maelstrom in Norway closed at the beginning of the month as fans went to say their final goodbyes.
  • World Showcase Acts removed and new acts introduced: This year we said goodbye to Mo’Rockin, the World Showcase Players, the Fife and Drum Corps, and Off Kilter. We also got to welcome the new Moroccan female group, B’net al Houwariyate; a flag waving troupe,  Sbandieratori di Sansepolcro; celtic group, The Paul McKenna Band, and Canadian Lumberjack Show.

November

  • Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow closes: Another closure for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s clear something is afoot. This time is was the lackluster Pirates themed show. I don’t think many will miss it.
  • Turner Classic Movies make deal with Disney: This was a match made in heaven. Turner Classic Movies will sponsor The Great Movie Ride and will include a new pre-show and updated movie clips. In addition, Disney weekends will occur periodically on Turner Classic Movies.

December

  • Trattoria al Forno opens: Opening in the place of Cat Cora’s Kouzzina, this new BoardWalk Inn restaurant features Italian dishes.

It’s hard to believe that so much happened this year! And 2015 is sure to be an exciting year with the debut of Disney Springs and the updated Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort opening with a new pool, new DVC villas, and most important, Trader Sam’s! What is your favorite Walt Disney World news piece from 2014 and what are you looking forward to for 2015?

Oct 292014
 

By Debbie Boehm

Christmas at Walt Disney World

 

It’s Halloween and you know what that means! It’s time to think about the holidays at Walt Disney World. Wait what?

As the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties wind down and the pumpkins are stored for next year’s celebrations, the holiday decorations, including Christmas trees of every size and garlands for draping everywhere, are moving about in the staging areas. It’s like magic to go to sleep one night with the parks and resorts undecorated and to wake up in the morning to lights, trees, and garlands adorning lobbies and parks.

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If you can get to Walt Disney World during the holiday season, you won’t be disappointed. One of my favorite things to do is to take a tour of the monorail resorts where you’re bound to be delighted by a full size Gingerbread House (where Cast Members actually sell gingerbread among other delectable treats) at The Grand Floridian. At the Contemporary Resort gingerbread is assembled in the shape of a Christmas tree on the concourse on the fourth floor. I’ve read that this year’s theme is Frozen so it’s definitely on the must see list.

Did you know that there are chestnuts roasting at The Grand Floridian during the Christmas holidays? To the right of the entrance, there is a chestnut roasting station. Stop by and pick up a bag to enjoy while you take in the sights, sounds and smells of the season.   If you’ve ever been in New York City in the winter, then you’ll recognize that smell instantly. I confess that I did go back for a second bag last year.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that The Magic Kingdom is my number one all-time favorite theme park. For many years our family only visited during summer due to school schedules and my job responsibilities. The first time I saw Walt Disney World decorated I was chaperoning a field trip for high school students. Honestly, I can remember walking around like a tourist filled with delight. People were rushing past me to get to rides and shows but I was drinking it all in. The beauty of my beloved park changed from summer mode to holiday mode brought tears to my eyes.   You see, not only is The Magic Kingdom my favorite park but Christmas is my favorite holiday.

If you’ve never seen Cinderella Castle transformed into an ice castle, then this just might be the perfect year to see that as Elsa, Ann, Kristoff and Olaf will do the honors this year. They call it synergy and this is, in my opinion, a perfect fit for the Frozen franchise. I’m sure that I will, once again, shed a few tears as the castle is adorned with her holiday lights. The festivities begin at 6:15 each evening – be sure to find a good spot so you can see the show before the lighting.

Another must do is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at The Magic Kingdom. The party officially begins at 7 pm on select nights. Hot chocolate and cookies are served at food service locations throughout the evening. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime parade and a special holiday version of Wishes complete the evening. Dance the night away in Tomorrowland with Mike Wazowski, Buzz Lightyear and Stitch. Enjoy character greetings and photo opportunities throughout the park. It’s a great to get that perfect shot for your holiday greeting cards.

Special merchandise is available for purchase during the Christmas party. Choose from tee shirts, sweatshirts and pins. Last year there was a Christmas ornament for sale also. There really is so much to plan when attending the special events that I make a list. Be sure to plan to eat dinner either before entering or shortly after your arrival as the food service areas are not open for the duration of the party.

I guarantee that it’s a good time – this year will be the third time for our family. We’ve been there with dear friends and their children and parents and we’ve been there with a sibling and their children. This year our youngest son and his girlfriend will join us. Each time we’ve had lots of fun and definitely got into the spirit of the season.

Let’s not forget Epcot where each country features storytellers who share their country’s traditions. Of course, there are seasonal treats to enjoy. Santa and Mrs. Claus greet guests at The American Adventure where stories of Chanukah and Kwanzaa are also told. The Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers perform just inside the pavilion. Enjoy holiday songs by this a cappella group in the rotunda and get into the spirit of the season.

In Germany Helga shares stories of the Christmas traditions many of us know and love.   Helga will tell the story of the Christmas tree and her very first Nutcracker. Be sure to stay to the end for a surprise. In the United Kingdom hear stories of Father Christmas dating back many centuries. Learn about Chinese New Year in China, hear the story of La Befana in Italy, a kind hearted witch who gives gifts to good children on the eve of the Epiphany. Sing along to the holiday tunes as you make your way through the park. My favorite part of the stories shared in Germany last year was seeing the faces of the children as they learned why Christmas trees are brought into our homes and decorated.

Check WaltDisneyWorld.com for more information on all the special events in each country and be sure to ask for a Times Guide either at your resort or at the park entrance.

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Ahh, now onto the big one at Epcot – The Candlelight Processional. The story of Christmas, read by a celebrity narrator and backed up by an orchestra and choirs. Cast Members and local school choirs combine to sing favorite Christmas songs and to form a human Christmas tree.   Each celebrity who participates lends a bit of a personal touch to the event. Last year, my husband and I heard Naomi Judd and Whoopi Goldberg perform the reading. Although the story is the same, the reading and the personal stories were very different. We couldn’t pick one over the other. If you plan to take in this incredible event, be sure to arrive early. I’ve never been inside the theater for this event at the America’s Gardens Theater but I have stood just outside.

Celebrity narrators for 2014 include: Jodi Benson (Ariel!), Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, Edward James Olmos, Blair Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman.   Each night there are three performances: 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15. As times and celebrity narrators are subject to change without notice. The event will begin on November 28 and run through December 30.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Hollywood Studios is where I’m heading to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Streets of America. You can see this amazing display of holiday lights beginning on November 7 and ending on January 4.   Although a start time is not currently available for this year, last year the lighting began with the telling of the story of how the lights began at approximately 6:15 (or dusk). Did you know that it all started on a single home in Arkansas and just grew and grew? The generous donation of the Osborne family to Disney makes it possible for us to stand in the center of the beautiful lights synchronized to holiday music. If you can get there before the switch is flipped it is quite a sight as the streets go from the light of dusk to the twinkling, dancing lights of the holidays.

There are also many details to see in the lights. For example, a black cat from a Halloween display was inadvertently sent with the Christmas decorations. Each year that cat is hidden in a new location; some people love finding the cat each year. Children’s bicycles and wagons are decorated in front of the “houses” on the streets. There is a life-sized Nativity scene, dancing Christmas stars at the tops of buildings and every surface is covered with lights. It is so much to take in that we stayed for at least an hour. Again, there are so many opportunities for photos for your holiday cards. I’d suggest walking around and choosing the perfect spot for your family.

I know we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet but my wish is that each and every one of you has the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World during the festive holiday season at least once.

 

Aug 202014
 

By Melissa Bejer

 

Tips and Tricks for Traveling with Senior(ish) Disney Fans

Having traveled with family and friends covering a wide range of ages, I thought it would be helpful to put together some tips and tricks for those Disney fans that aren’t exactly old, just older! Technically, anyone over the age of 30 could fall into this category, as that was the age where the spinning rides just did not agree with me anymore. But think of these tips and tricks as a guideline for any Disney fan that wants to take it down a notch from the typical Commando Disney style of opening and closing the parks.

Transportation Tip:

While staying on site as a resort guest, getting around on the buses is usually quick and easy. However, sometimes the bus lines can be quite daunting just after the fireworks have ended or the parks have closed. Since the buses are typically packed at this time of night, and young children are often asleep in parent’s arms, seats are usually few and far between. Often we are left with the big decision of squeezing inside the bus and standing the entire way, or standing and waiting for the next bus. I know that neither option really appeals to me if I am tired. So, why not take a few extra minutes exiting the park? Grab a rocking chair on Main Street and take a load off. Soak in the park at night as the crowds disperse and the peacefulness sets in. It’s also a good time to browse through the gift shops. Especially if you wanted to pick up a few things but didn’t want to carry it or bother with sending it back to the resort. Shopping for souvenirs at the end of the night also means you don’t have to use precious park time during the day. I have to admit, I love milking every last second in the parks, so I tend to use this tip quite often myself!

Grab a rocking chair on Main Street

 

First Day Trick:

The vacation arrival days can get tricky when deciding to splurge on adding an extra park ticket day. Potentially, the arrival day may only contain a few available hours for park ticket use. Is it worth it to get the extra day added to the ticket? And don’t forget, just after traveling, you might not have the get up and go to hit the parks running just yet. We find it both fun and relaxing to do resort hopping on our arrival day. Completely at your leisure, you can take the bus over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and hop on the Friendship boat heading to the Swan & Dolphin, Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. A short stroll behind the Dolphin resort is Fantasia Gardens. With two mini golf courses to choose from, you can opt for the family-friendly fairway, or the more challenging course. Depending on the timing, you could potentially grab lunch or dinner at either the Yacht or Beach Club (both resorts have several dining options fitting every type of budget), then head over to the BoardWalk, which is especially fun to walk around when it is all lit up at night. You can find magicians and jugglers, even strolling musicians. Grab a waffle cone at Seashore Sweets and enjoy the view of Crescent Lake. There are also many restaurants you can choose to stop in along the BoardWalk, or feel free to stop in at Jellyrolls to hear the dueling pianos. Just make sure to keep tabs on the transportation back to your resort. While it’s tempting to just simply walk over to Epcot thru the International Gateway and grab your bus from the usual Epcot spot, don’t forget – you’re ticketless! Instead, if the parks are still open and you are wanting a ride back to your hotel, make your way over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and take a bus from there. If you stay at Jellyrolls past park closing times, plan on taking a cab from the front of the BoardWalk resort.

Too challenging

Restaurant Tip:

As an adult, your probably are sick of “park fare” after the first day. You really just want a nice sit down meal. But you are in Disney, and you want some of that Disney magic theming, while at the same time you don’t really feel like a character meal. Be Our Guest is the perfect restaurant for you. Granted, it’s the hottest seating to get in “the world” (Walt Disney World, that is) but it’s worth the extra dedication to try and get that elusive reservation. The theming is top of the line, and you truly feel as if you are a guest in Beast’s Castle. The French cuisine rivals any French restaurant, and the ala carte desserts will keep your sweet tooth very happy.

The best part is, Beast is available to meet you, should you desire to meet him. (Ed. note: Keep in mind, Be Our Guest Restaurant is NOT technically a character meal, so Beast meeting guests could change at any time, Presently, he does meet with guests, but only at dinner. Beast does not meet at lunch.) After you are finished with your meal, on the way out of the restaurant is a small area (used for lunch kiosks during the day) that allows you to take a private moment with Beast. As an adult, the character meet and greet can be a bit embarrassing for some folks, so I feel like this option really works. Everyone gets a chance to meet Beast, but it is on your time. And the entire restaurant is not there photobombing the meet opportunity!

Beast

The “Not-Really-a-Nap” Trick:

If you are up and at ‘em early in the morning, by 2pm the little voice inside your head is saying, “I could use a nap.” But you’re on vacation, and you don’t want to waste valuable park time back at the resort taking a nap. But then again, you ARE on vacation! Let’s face it, you should take a nap if you need it. A 20 minute to a half hour snooze can really reinvigorate you. Sometimes without the nap, even us adults can get the crankies when we are tired, so much so that we make the crying kids in the strollers look like angels. A trip back to the room also gives you time to wash up before heading back out to the parks for dinner and fireworks. And since you are on vacation, maybe you don’t need a nap but just a few quite minutes, why not take a few minutes to actually use that balcony in your room? A mid afternoon snack on the balcony can be an effective recharge.

But if you really think a nap is really just wasting time, head over to the Polynesian Resort for some relaxation. Grab a snack from Captain Cooks quick service dining and relax out on one of the hammocks on the beach. If you just happen to nap in the hammock, so what? At least you are at another resort, and that counts as “doing something” in my book. The Polynesian beach is the best way to take a few minutes and just not be in the hustle and bustle of the parks.

Poly Hammock

Special Event Tip:

Always wanted to hit one of the Walt Disney World special events or parties, but don’t want to have to buy a separate ticket? Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is the event for you! The festival takes place this year from September 19 to November 10, 2014. Access to the most of the festival’s activities are included with your regular Epcot admission. There is a cost for any food and wine samplings, but they are for a nominal fee. Tasting your way around the world is a great way to enjoy different cultural cuisines, and the best part is that you can do it at your own pace. There are also a few different activities available that do come at a cost, but they also include up close and personal demonstrations and talks from chefs and mixologists alike.

Another great event included in the festival (and a freebie!) is the Eat to the Beat concert series. Lots of different flavors of music are offered with three shows nightly, every night throughout the festival. It’s a 30 minute show of some of your favorite musical acts. Lining up early is highly recommended to secure a close spot, but if sitting up front is not a huge priority, we have walked into the American Pavilion as acts have taken the stage and we have managed to secure a seat. So have a few drinks, a couple of snacks and take in a concert! Sounds like a perfect night to me!

Eat to the Beat

 

Overall, while these tips should help out those who may be considered Disney Seniors, they really are helpful to everyone who may be planning their next Walt Disney World Vacation. What is your best tip for those who maybe aren’t traveling comando-style?

Dec 262013
 

By Rikki Niblett

Well, it’s hard to believe that 2013 has come and almost gone, but here it is, the last few days of the year.  Christmas is over now and we’re ready to look forward to a new year.

But before we do that, I thought we’d take a look at a few of the big things that happened at Walt Disney World for 2013.  It was a year of change, as many new upgrades were added to the way we all vacation.  Here is a look at some of the things that I think we’ll all remember this past year for.

FastPass+

©Disney

MyMagic+, Fastpass+, My Disney Experience, MagicBands, etc.

You’d be hard pressed to not say that this year was the year of Magic and plus signs.  This year, Disney began testing it’s brand new NextGen project called MyMagic+.  While this system is still in the testing phase, many of us have now learned what these new terms mean and how it will impact our vacations.  (And trust me, it will for years to come).  For 2014, it will interesting to see how things get tweaked here and there and what new surprises Disney has rolled up their sleeves in regards to this new system.  I expect that we’ll see a more full scale roll out in the next year.

Limited Time Magic

The promotion for this year came in with great potential, but I think for the most part, failed to live up to it.  Sure, there were some events that were huge successes (like the Friday the 13 Villains Party, May the Fourth Be With You, and Long Lost Friends) but for the most part, the year just highlighted merchandise, cupcakes, and events that take place anyway.  It was a good idea, but the execution just didn’t seem to be there.  While I know that not everything needs to be big and grand, it would have been nice to have seen a few more innovative happenings.  When they did the more innovative things, I think guests responded and responded well.

Princess Fairy Tale Hall

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Princess Fairy Tale Hall

This new meet and greet location opened in September as part of New Fantasyland in the location of Snow White’s Scary Adventure.  It is by far the spot to go if you want to meet some of the best and brightest princesses.  I especially appreciate the detail that was included to make this place really shine.  It’s really the perfect spot to meet those coveted Princesses, like Cinderella and Rapunzel.

 

Disney Springs

Downtown Disney is being re-branded into Disney Springs and this year, Disney gave us some details on what the new area will look like in 2016 when it’s all said and done.  2013 is the year of construction for this new project.  Some places have closed to make way for new; parking lots are closed to make way for a parking garage; and new food trucks have popped up to help with the demand until the new area opens.  We’ve got a few more years on this project, so it will be interesting to see the details that get released over the next year about this project.

Starbucks at Epcot

©Disney

Starbucks

One of the biggest things to happen at Walt Disney World this year was the introduction of Starbucks to the theme parks.  It was met with some who loved the idea and others who abhorred it.  Especially when favorite stomping grounds were taken over by the coffee giant (I’m looking at you Main Street Bakery).  Whether you love it or hate it, the one thing that’s well known is that Disney coffee before was abysmal.  With Starbucks, it is not.  For the coffee lover, this is a good step in the right direction.

Tangled Restrooms

The Tangled potties opened up this year in the Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland.  While it may be silly to include it on this list, it is a really cool restroom.  It is themed to the hilt around the hit franchise movie and is a welcome addition in an area that had probably had some of the smallest facilities originally (And probably got hit the most, since there are no restrooms in Liberty Square.).  So while yes it’s just restrooms, it was a welcome addition and is extremely neat to visit.  You almost have to make a stop there even if it is just to explore.  Oh … and the place is even better at night with the lanterns lit up!

Talking Mickey Mouse

©Disney

Talking Mickey

This one is a big one because how cool is it that Mickey talks to guests at the Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom?  Mickey plays games and actually TALKS to you, which is something that he’s never been able to do.  While it’s a little weird at first, as soon as you get the hang of it, you wonder why the other characters can’t talk to you too.  Maybe someday they all will.  But for now, I’ll take Mickey.

Of course, this is nowhere near a complete list of all the new things that happened in 2013, but it is a good start.  It will be interesting to see what 2014 brings.  We’ve got a new restaurant in Morocco with Spice Road Table and of course, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will open sometime likely before the summer.

What are your thoughts though?  What was your favorite thing that happened with the Disney Parks in 2013 and what are you looking forward to in 2014?

Nov 272013
 

By Debbie Boehm

 

Gingerbread Men

©Disney

I love Disney.  There, I said it.  It’s a confession and a proud statement at the same time.  It began when I was a little girl with Peter Pan decorations on my bedroom wall and it continues to this day when I watch “Once Upon A Time” on Sunday nights.  And I love making new Disney memories.

Where did this obsession actually begin?  Well, in my first picture with Santa in 1954 there are pictures of Mickey and Pluto on the walls behind Santa’s chair.  Then there was Sunday night television with Walt Disney.

As a child I can remember seeing all the Disney movies when they were released.  My most vivid memory was “Mary Poppins” at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  To this day when I watch Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in that movie I am thrown back to Radio City Music Hall with my parents, sisters, aunts and cousins.

This same phenomenon occurs every time I visit Walt Disney World.  Every time I arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort I remember my firsts – first trip in 1975 with co-workers, my first anniversary trip with my husband and our first family trip with our three children in 1993.  Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure this is why we return each year (sometimes more than once).

As I write this article, it is nine days until we head down to Walt Disney World.  This trip is our first time we’ll be there for all of the holiday festivities.  Although we have been to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, it was during the first week and decorations were put up the night before we were leaving.  I am very excited to be able to see the parks and resorts in all their holiday glitz.

I know for a fact that I’ll want to go back every year at the same time because I’m sure to make some fantastic memories with our niece and nephew.  We will stay at a Disney Vacation Club resort for the first time.  Also, for the first time, we’ll be attending the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party and we’ll play both Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and the Pirate Adventure in the Magic Kingdom.

©Disney

©Disney

Heading on over to Epcot for the Candlelight Processional and the holiday story tellers and you’ve got me in tears.  For those of you who’ve done the math, I am just shy of my 60th birthday and more of a kid than ever when it comes to anything Disney.

As a child, I lived in a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York where Christmas lights were incredible.  Garland was strung across our main street where all of our favorite stores were located.  Main Street in the Magic Kingdom will certainly evoke all those memories.  A family we knew had an entire town in their garage and enough crystal lights to look like a movie set.  For the first time I expect that my memory will pale when I see the Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios.  I’m fully prepared to cry like a baby standing there among the spectacle and be in awe of the beauty.

©Disney

©Disney

In addition to all of the decorations and the parties I’m looking forward to special desserts to be served during the holidays.  Gingerbread shingles, cupcakes that look like Santa Mickey, cookies decorated with characters.  Why, there’s even a five legged goat treat at The Contemporary!

(For a full look at Walt Disney World’s Holiday experiences, visit: https://www.themouseforless.com/tripplanning/wdwparks/annual/holiday.shtml )

Planning this particular trip was so much fun because we were able to plan to make the most of the special events.  There will also be filming in the Magic Kingdom on the last day of this vacation for the Christmas parade.  You honestly can’t pack any more into one trip and, honestly, I’m worried that we’ll miss something.  Then I remind myself that there’s always next year.  After all, I have more memories to make!