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!

Dec 172014
 

By Melissa Bejer

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Magical moments around Walt Disney World are plentiful throughout the year, but somehow, around the holidays, they are even more magical! 2014 has been no different. Below are just a few memorable magical holiday moments we experienced a few weeks ago.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was full of magical holiday moments! This year, we participated in the Holiday Hootenanny at the Diamond Horseshoe.   This is a new dance party hosted by the Country Bear Jamboree fellas and also participating were Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and my personal favorite, Clara Cluck. The clock struck 7pm, and MVMCP had officially kicked off when we entered the Holiday Hootenanny. I had the pleasure of dancing with the Country Bears all by myself, as we were the first family walking in the door. There is a reason they call it a Hootenanny, it was a real hoot! Those bears can cut a rug! They played all kinds of music during the dance party, from disco, rock and roll, country and Christmas songs too. The Country Bears took a break after about a half hour of hootenannying, which left the dance floor open for Horace, Clarabelle and Clara to come and share in some of the fun. Clara was even getting people to do “the sprinkler” dance. For the rest of the night, whenever we were a quick mosey away from Frontierland, my family let me run in for a dance or two!

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A good tip if you are waiting in line for Uncle Scrooge, Donald, and Daisy: the line is twice as long as Santa Goofy’s line. I was able to grab a quick Merry Christmas with Santa Goofy (he is right across the walkway from the ducks), while my husband held the line and although we still had a 20 minute wait when I got back, it felt like we got a real deal – a bit of a quadruple holiday treat for the time we waited!

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Nothing is more festive than during MVMCP when it snows on Main Street while drinking your complimentary hot cocoa. If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, even Uncle Scrooge will roll his eyes are your bah humbugness!

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We stayed at the Contemporary during our trip, and this year the resort’s festive display was an homage to Frozen, in all GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE! They also had a small area set up for Frozen merchandise and some gingerbread and chocolate goodness for purchase should you sweet tooth get inspired by the display.

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Christmas Duffy was greeting guests over at his usual spot in Epcot, he’s always such a fun character to visit.

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And file under rare character sighting (these seems to pop up from time to time around the holidays), Launchpad McQuack from Duck Tails – we found him over by the International Gateway. (Ed. note: While rare characters are just that, rare, sometimes you can happen upon them at the International Gateway. So, always be on the lookout, as these are fun meet and greet opportunities when they do indeed happen.)

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The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights never disappoints. It is a holiday feast for the eyes and the ears, and every 15 minutes there is a light show to the tune of various Christmas carols. While it can get crowded while walking around viewing the twinkling lights, the crowd actually adds to the ambiance of the scene, as many people are singing along to the carols. It feels like true holiday spirit as everyone sings songs together and marvels at the wonder of it all. I highly recommend a good spectacling!

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In typical Magic Kingdom fashion, Christmas was in the air all over Main Street! Staring with the Dapper Dans and singing their beautiful carols while playing their organ chimes (Silver Bells, Frosty, Rudolph – they have so many good tunes in their repertoire).

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And don’t forget to catch the Trolley Show with the Main Street citizens and their song and dance medley of Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

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But Cinderella’s Castle is simply magnificent during the holidays, by day or by night.

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Food Related Honorable Mention (not holiday related, but still memorable) – The famous “croissant doughnut” that is being replicated across the globe as an alternative to the famous Cronut invented and trademarked by Chef Dominique Ansel out of his bakery in New York City, can be found at the Refreshment Port in Epcot. It has been home to the Refreshment Port for about a year now, but if you have walked past the Refreshment Port without knowledge that it is the home of mouthwatering delights, you are missing out big time. Disney’s version of the croissant doughnut is fluffy and light, tossed in cinnamon sugar and while I don’t use this word often, it is delectable! Do not pass up a chance to sample this heavenly treat. Keep in mind, if you decide to partake in this scrumptious yumminess, the Refreshment Port doesn’t open until 11am. So if you were thinking of stopping for a quick breakfast (given that separately, croissants and doughnuts are breakfasty foods), make sure you plan on eating breakfast late morning. And enjoy the water view!

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Season’s Greetings to all, from myself and the mayor of Main Street, Honorable Mayor Christopher George Weaver!

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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.

 

Nov 132013
 

By Rikki Niblett

©Disney

©Disney

Wow!  The Holiday Season is upon us (Wasn’t it just January?)  The glorious festive fun is back with colors or red and green popping up, Christmas songs playing on the radio, and holiday decorations everywhere you look.  So, with the Holidays popping up around me in my daily life, it’s also plain to see that they have taken their place already at Walt Disney World too!  Let’s take a look at all the activities that guests can participate in at the four Disney theme parks in Florida.

The Magic Kingdom starts things off and it’s considered by many to be a park so rich in Holiday traditions.  It almost feels like it’s Christmas morning each time you step foot in the park!

There are a few major activities that take place here and the first is something that the whole family can delight in each and every night and that is the Castle Dream Lights. The only word I can use to describe them is breathtaking.  I can’t tell you how much photos cannot do this justice.  The colors simply glow in a way that you can’t even imagine.  Guests should also not miss the special Castle Lighting ceremony which takes place called Cinderella’s Holiday Wish, where Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother works her magic to get those lights to sparkle!  This show takes place anywhere between 6 pm and 6:30 pm, so check your Times Guide and be prepared to be in awe.

The Magic Kingdom also gets into the holiday spirit with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special hard ticketed event that happens on select nights.  The two major draws for this Party which are the Christmas parade, as well as the fireworks extravaganza.

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May 152013
 

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! – Jiminy Cricket

 

Q.  I am so excited that they posted the dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2013. But which day is the best to go?  Our trip is the week of Nov 17 – 24. The party is going to be held on the Sunday that we arrive and also on the Thursday and Friday nights that we are there.  When should we consider going?  (Melanie)

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May 162012
 

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! – Jiminy Cricket

 

Q. Hi!  We’re planning on going to WDW in early November and possibly attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  How much are the tickets this year?  What are some can’t-miss things to see and do around this time?  (Submitted by Bernadette N.)

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