Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Chocolate Holiday Display

 It’s beginning to Choc-o-late like Christmas at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin!

Two time World Pastry Champion Chef constructs entire Holiday Scene out of nearly 2,000 pounds of chocolate

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

Chef completes a 7-foot tall, 400-pound chocolate nutcracker sculpture to add to his annual Christmas display at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel

 

It’s that time of year when holiday decorations are going up, and for the only two-time world pastry champion that means one thing – chocolate!  In order to give guests of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin a special treat for the holidays, Laurent Branlard – the hotel’s, executive pastry chef – just completed a 7-foot tall, 400-pound chocolate nutcracker that is part of an entire Christmas scene constructed out of nearly 2,000 lbs. of chocolate. 

The nutcracker took approximately 80 hours to complete and is vibrantly colored with reds, blues, and golds. Still, it is 100 percent edible.  

The nutcracker joins a Christmas scene, which will be displayed in the lobby of the hotel through December, that includes a life-sized Santa Claus, fireplace with stockings, Christmas tree, and toy train. 

 Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

Branlard is renowned for intricate chocolate and sugar sculptures and this piece marks one his largest and most difficult ones to date. 

Just in case any chocolate lovers are thinking of taking on the challenge of consuming this enormous sweet, they should consider that the entire scene is more than 4 million calories! (Please note that the sculpture is not available for tasting.)

Walt Disney World Swan and
Swan and Dolphin Hotels

What: Chocolate Christmas Scene Sculpture by world champion pastry chef Laurent Branlard

 

Where:Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel (Swan wing lobby)

1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd.

Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

 

When: Throughout December

For more details about all the holiday excitement at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel or to make room reservations, please visit www.santasfavoriteresort.com or call 1-800-227-1500.

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Now Snowing Nightly In Celebration

Celebration Now Snowing  Nightly

Snowfall and Events EVERY Night at Now Snowing Nightly Now through December 31st
(including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve)

Now Snowing, is by far our favorite event hosted by Celebration all year!

Now Snowing Nightly

Now Snowing, Central Florida’s original and premier “Snowing” event, offers a new snowfall program, an  ice rink and a schedule filled with surprises. Now Snowing is a month long Winter Wonderland Spectacular featuring strolling Charles Dickens Carolers, community performers, photos with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, the Celebration Express train, and nightly snowfall at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 PM.

There is nothing like catching a bite to eat (We love Sweet Escape for a sandwich, Celebration Town Tavern for the best Chowder, or The Columbia for a 1905 Salad and Sangria), playing in the snow or ‘snoap’ as we call it, and doing a little shopping as a family!

Now Snowing Nightly
I picked this little guy up at Confetti!!! I love him!!!

During the hourly ‘snow’ a short story plays about how it first started snowing in Celebration which is followed by really fun and upbeat Christmas music!

Now Snowing Nightly

If you are planning on attending Now Snowing in Celebration, here are a few tips!

  • Make sure that your little ones wear closed toed shoes with lots of tread on them, because the ‘snow’ can be slippery and it helps keep the little ones safe while they run around!

Now Snowing Nightly

  • You will want to make sure that you plan ahead for parking, because it can take awhile to find a parking spot…especially on the weekend or on nights with special events. And when it says ‘Resident Parking Only’, take heed because they will tow your car!
  • If you think that your little one may be a snow magnet, you may want to keep a towel and even a change of clothes in your car. They lay a layer of ‘snow’ on the street before it starts ‘snowing’ so it will get everywhere!

Now Snowing Nightly

  • A lot of the shops will have specials, so make sure you peek in! (You know how much I love the Celebration Sanrio Surprises…I have a problem!)
  • Don’t forget there’s a Starbucks in Celebration! It can get really busy at times, but there’s nothing like their hot chocolate when it’s ‘snowing’!!!

Now Snowing Nightly

  • Wear socks or bring them if you are thinking about skating!!! The skating rink is great, because there are refs to keep things safe and walkers to help new skaters.
  • Don’t be surprised if you spend more time than you intended to at Now Snowing Nightly! You WILL get sucked in to the fun!!!

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In addition to the everyday fun at Now Snowing Nightly, join us for the Orlando Sentinel Celebration of Voices on December 7th , a special Radio Disney Holiday concert with performances by Megan Nicole and Before You Exit! on December 14th and the Countdown to Christmas with National Recording Artists Ryan Cabrera and Lucy Iris on December 21st, and presented by Jarrett Automotive Group. For a complete list of Community Performances click here!

Now Snowing Nightly in Celebration Overview

Nightly Snowfall 6, 7, 8 and 9 PM November 30th through December 31st.

Celebration Now Snowing Nightly

Endless Ice-Ice Skating Rink
$10.00 for a 1/2 hour minimum skate (skate rental included)
4:00-10:00 p.m. daily

Now Snowing Nightly

Horse and Carriage Rides
Wagon Rides- $5.00 per person
Horse and Carriage Rides- $25 for the first 2 passengers, $10 each additional

Special Holiday Home Tour Rides (30/40 minutes in length to see the lights throughout Celebration)- $25 per person
Call for Appointment for Horse & Carriage Holiday Home Tour: 321-624-6380

 Celebration Now Snowing

Train Rides
$5.00 at the Gate or
$4.00 in advance if purchased at Confetti, Market Street Gallery, Sweet Escape,  or Sanrio Surprises. (Before 4 p.m. Nightly)

Celebration Now Snowing

Story Time at Sanrio

FREE-(schedule available in the Celebration Sanrio Store)
A Special Guest Reads Christmas Stories
(Space is Limited-for reservations visit Sanrio in Celebration 

 Now Snowing Nightly

Brought to you by Lexin Capital, and sponsored in part by the Celebration Town Tavern, Experience Kissimmee, and Melia Suites Hotel at Celebration. Now Snowing Nightly parking and admission are free.

 

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Ripley’s Florida Attractions Florida Resident Offer

Ripley's Believe It Or Not

Ripley’s Florida Attractions

Offer 50% off to Florida Residents

Florida residents are getting an early holiday gift from Ripley’s attractions with 50% off for all state residents to all of their Florida attractions between December 2nd and December 20th

Participating attractions include:

  • Ripley’s Odditorium and Moving Theater in Panama City Beach
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditoriums in Key West and Orlando
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium, Red Train Tours and Ghost Train Adventure in St. Augustine, Florida.

Residents will need to show a local photo ID in order to receive the discount. All adults in the party will need to have proof of residency in order to receive the discount.

About Ripley Entertainment 

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is part of the Ripley Entertainment Inc. (www.ripleys.com) family of worldwide attractions, the global leader in location-based entertainment. More than 12 million people visit its 80-plus attractions in 10 countries each year. In addition to its 32 Believe It or Not!Odditoriums, the Orlando, Florida-based company has publishing, licensing and broadcast divisions that oversee projects including the syndicated Believe It or Not! television show, best-selling books and the popular syndicated cartoon strip, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, that still runs daily in 42 countries.Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.
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IKEA Soft Toy Campaign Benefiting UNICEF And Save The Children

 IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

Earlier this year IKEA announced the return of its annual ‘Soft Toys for Education’ campaign, which will run from November 10, 2013 to January 4, 2014. During this period, the IKEA Foundation will donate one euro (approximately $1.34)* to UNICEF and Save the Children to give children in developing countries access to a quality education. Launched in 2003, the campaign has impacted 10 million children in 46 countries and donations have totalled $74 million for 90 projects.

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

Since 2003, the ‘Soft Toys for Education’ Program has Impacted Ten Million Children and Raised $74 Million!

The donations from the IKEA Soft Toys for Education Campaign will help train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials like pencils, books, bags, rebuild schools and provide better water and toilet facilities; and increase school attendance rates. More than 10 million children will be educated in eliminating discrimination and stigma.

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

Education is the most powerful and effective way to help children escape poverty. The change it can bring to a young life is immense. Education has a direct impact on well-being, from better health to increased opportunities. It gives children knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves. When a child begins and stays in school, he or she not only changes the course of their own life, but that of future generations. And that’s when small changes pave the way for bigger ones.

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

Inspiration to read opens the door to education, which is why, every year, IKEA creates a children’s book based on IKEA soft toy characters as part of the annual Soft Toys for Education Campaign. In this year’s book, “The Princess and the Happiness,” young readers visit the fairy-tale forest and learn that happiness can be just around the corner.
Supporting Education—Together

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

This year’s newcomers to the soft toys family are fairy tale heroes:
LUFSIG, the soft toy wolf
NOJSIG and GULLGOSSE, a princess and a king
KRULLIG, an elf
SÅNGTRAST, a fairy with a magic spell

Thanks to the unwavering commitment shown by IKEA co-workers and customers, the IKEA Foundation has donated more than $51 million to UNICEF’s education programs for children in Africa and Asia,” said Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “IKEA’s support has enabled UNICEF to get millions of children into the classroom, provide teacher training to improve the quality of education, and help ensure children complete school.” 

“We are looking forward to our continued holiday tradition of teaming with IKEA Soft Toys for Education. The enthusiasm of IKEA staff and customers brings desperately needed education and teacher training to children in underserved parts of the world and will impact future generations,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. “We are honored to be part of this partnership along with UNICEF, and look forward to creating lasting change for children.”

“We are incredibly proud to be part of the IKEA Soft Toy for Education campaign. The funding means we can continue our work on changing the lives of children with disabilities and children of minority groups, the most marginalized children, in Eastern Europe and South East Asia. We’re providing access to quality education for millions of children, impacting on generations to come.” Elisabeth Dahlin, Secretary General Save the Children Sweden and Chairperson Global Lead Agency for the IKEA Foundation Collaboration.

“IKEA’s soft toys bring smiles to the faces of thousands of children. But many children across the globe have few reasons to smile. They don’t have access to basic things most of us take for granted – like clean water, food or education. IKEA’s annual Soft Toys for Education campaign makes a real difference – helping thousands of new children every year get an opportunity to receive a quality education.” Per Heggenes, CEO IKEA Foundation.

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign
If you can’t tell, this guy is my favorite!!!!

Good things are Happening All Over. A small contribution can make a big difference. Here are some examples of how the IKEA Foundation donations have impacted children’s lives.Ethiopia: Education is a primary driver for Ethiopia’s development. In 2012, UNICEF’s Schools for Africa initiative helped 238,000 children – including 25,000 refugees — stay in school despite living in challenging conditions.

For an extra fun touch on your next visit to IKEA Orlando, you can play the #FindKingIKEA at @IKEAOrlando for a chance to win a $25 IKEA Gift Card!

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

We always make sure to buy a few of these Soft Toys during the Campaign, and watch out for a huge Holiday Giveaway where you can win some of your own!

IKEA Orlando IKEA Soft Toy Campaign

Disclaimer: I bought these toys with my own money, because I wanted to make sure that I helped support a wonderful cause while spreading some Holiday Cheer!!!

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Tips For A Visit To ICE! At The Gaylord Palms

Tips for making the most of

Ice! Featuring Frosty the Snowman

at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center

Gaylord Palms Ice!

During the holiday season, the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center is transformed into a Christmas Wonderland filled with perfect poinsettias, more than 2 million twinkling lights, lavish and gorgeous holiday displays, a breathtaking 54-foot-tall majestic Christmas tree, DreamWorks Animation characters Meet & Greet opportunities, spectacular live entertainment, and most of all ICE!

 httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaeJ_49DD40&feature=share&list=UUxhza5Nkv4ukqKmIFLE9dgA

ICE! featuresmore than 2 million pounds of hand-carved, vibrant ice sculptures bringing to life several scenes from Frosty the Snowman in a 9-degree retelling of this Christmas classic!You’ll want to make sure that you bundle up (you will also be provided with oversize parkas) to keep warm enough to take a few trips on the two-story ice slides!

Gaylord Palms Ice!

Preparing for a visit to Ice! at the Gaylord Palms Resort takes a lot of planning, and here are some of my favorite tips and tricks we have learned over the years!

  • Dress in Layers: I can’t stress this one enough! Make sure that you are prepared for the 9 degrees you will find inside of Ice! by protecting your fingers, nose, and toes! You will be given a nice a long parka to wear inside, make sure that you get one that is extra roomy I will explain in a moment, but it is definitely not sufficient to keep you warm for long periods of time. I over-do my layering, and I have never regretted it!
  • No Pockets: The parkas that you will be wearing do not have pockets, so I usually carry a small cross-body purse that is loose to wear under my parka to allow for easy access to my phone, Chapstick, and other things that I might need while I am inside.

Gaylord Palms Ice!

  • Phones: Your phones and cameras will get super cold, and even shutdown if you take them out a lot to take pictures. I like to stash my phone on the inside of my gloves to keep it warm and easily accessible. Also, if you are planning to wear gloves make sure that they are gloves that let you work your phone’s touch screen without taking them off. Gloves like this are a lifesaver!!!
  • Cameras: Going from regular room temperature to cold so quickly can make camera lenses fog up quickly. There is a short movie that you watch before entering Ice! that is a colder temperature than the room before, so use this as an opportunity to get your camera used to the cold. Like my phone, I try to have a warmer spot for my camera when it’s not in use.
  • Look around: Looking around may seem like a silly tip, but if you take an extra moment to take in the details you will find extra design features and maybe even a slightly hidden ice tunnel! Don’t rush! Take as long as you need in each room!

Gaylord Palms Ice!

  • Slides: If you are 2 or 62, take a moment to slide on the ice slides at least once! The slides are a ton of fun, and you are missing out if you don’t take a turn! Your roomy coat comes in handy here, because to ensure the best slide possible make sure that your jacket is completely underneath you and then lean back as you slide. One of the lovely slide monitors told me about leaning back this year, and it makes for a fast run down the slide!
  • Little Ones: You will quickly notice that all of the parkas provided by the Gaylord Palms are blue and it can be hard to distinguish since everyone has their hood up. One way that I make sure that I can quickly spot my daughter is by wrapping her in a brightly colored scarf and hat. Also, make sure that you are wearing something that they can easily recognize in the crowds that can form around the slides!

Gaylord Palms Ice!

  • Taking Pictures: You may notice when you first start taking photos that they seem dark. Don’t be tempted to use your flash, because it creates bright spots in pictures and can make the colors all wonky. My best advice, as I am not a master photographer, is to get close to what you are taking a picture of and to use a photo editing app or program afterwards.
  • HAVE FUN! Ice! is a lot of fun, so make sure that you enjoy it for as long as you can stand the 9 degrees!

Gaylord Palms Ice!

Make sure that you check out the 2013 bonus area, the Frostbite Factory featuring Artisans in Action. This live ice-carving zone allows you to get up close to watch a masterful ice carver from Harbin, China, home of the International Ice and Snow Festival, as he creates amazing sculptures before your eyes! He is part of a team of 40 talented artisans who travel from Harbin to work meticulously for more than a month to slice and shave 6,000 blocks of colored and clear ice, each weighing approximately 400 pounds, to carve this incredible experience. This area features great information about how the sculptures are created, too!

image

ICE! is open daily from Nov. 23, 2013 to Jan. 5, 2014, including holidays. Ticket prices start at $16.99. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.ChristmasAtGaylordPalms.com.

The Gaylord Palms Resort is located five minutes from the gates of Walt Disney World at 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee, FL 34746.

Disclaimer: Through a partnership with the Gaylord Palms, I received admission to Ice! and accommodations at the Resort. All opinions are my own.

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A Warm Look At Frozen

Disney-Frozen

Currently in theaters, Frozen is the tale of two sisters separated by magic, but joined by their love for each other.  Bearing almost no resemblance to it source work, “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, Frozen becomes a new, different, and original story by Disney.  In keeping with the current trend, this movie is completely computer animated, and at some very key moments in the movie it’s clear that this technology has advanced to such a point as to make magic take on a very real feel.

There are some interesting characters thrown into the film like the comedic sidekick Olaf the Snowman – a character I honestly found annoying from the original trailer – that I really enjoyed in the context of the full movie.  Drawing from something that worked really well in the movie Tangled, we get a second sidekick in the form of a carrot loving reindeer named Sven.  Since they were young Sven has been the companion of the ice trader Kristoff – together they have a relationship that reminds me of myself and my dog Jasper (yes including the talking).

Frozen

Arendelle is a very beautiful land that is in many ways made more beautiful when covered in snow and ice.  There are moments where that snow and ice are used to convey the emotion of the characters and the moment that just work so fantastically well, that you’re reminded of that magical element to winter from your childhood.  This coming from someone who can’t stand snow.

Frozen

The music in the movie is really strong, and does a fantastic job in helping to broaden the definition of the characters singing them.  One clever element is that instead of having the manly mountain man Kristoff sing a song about his feelings, his “family” of rock trolls sings it for him.  Anna’s entire drive for the movie is defined in the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” which is an ode to her longing for the companionship of her sister.  “Let It Go” is that moment when Elsa is finally able to be herself while at the same time letting us know that she too is lonely.

httpv://youtu.be/kHue-HaXXzg

For 70 years Disney has been looking for a way to bring the story of “The Snow Queen” to movie audiences, and it’s clear that they have succeeded.  It’s nice to have a story where the core, classic elements of what people perceive to be a “Disney Movie” can be turned on their side some and bring about the sort of depth of to characters that modern audiences crave.  Do I think everyone will like this movie? No. Do I think that Disney fans should go see this movie? Absolutely.  Frozen is a very good movie that tells a strong story using well defined characters that is very enjoyable to watch.

httpv://youtu.be/TbQm5doF_Uc

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Tour of Cinderella Castle Suite and Be Our Guest

When the Disney Parks Blog announced that they were going to be doing tours of Be Our Guest restaurant and Cinderella Castle suite, I just knew I had to get my name into the hat! And thankfully I was selected and I enjoyed every single second of being apart of this Limited Time Magic!

Magic Kingdom will always feel like my “home” park – it’s where I started when I became a cast member. And as many times as I’ve seen Cinderella Castle, I never imagined I’d be able to go into the castle suite.

Cinderella castle

My part of the group started in Be Our Guest and one of the imagineers that designed the restaurant gave us a tour of all the rooms.

be our guest orderbe our guest be our guest west wing be our guest west wing be our guest

We learned that the little cherubs on the ceiling *may* have a slight resemblance to the imagineers that worked on the restaurant 🙂

be our guest cherubs

I had the grey stuff for breakfast. Breakfast of champions, right?

be our guest grey stuff

After that treat, it was time to go see the Cinderella castle suite! I have walked by this door more times than I even know and yet I was finally seeing it open!

cinderella castle suite door

We rode the elevator up to the suite level and before the door to the suite opened, I was already amazed.

cinderella castle suite cinderella castle suite floorcinderella castle suite mary blair

And then it was time…

cinderella castle suite cinderella castle suite cinderella castle suite cinderella castle suite bathtub cinderella castle suite bathroomcinderella castle suite bathroom

The details are beyond amazing!

cinderella castle suite

The windows in the living room area tell Cinderella’s story.

Her home, the invitation the the ball, the clock striking midnight.

cinderella castle suite windows

The glass slipper, Gus and Jaq finding the key, and the happy ever after.

cinderella castle suite windows

These little mirror on either side of the fire place have a prince and princess on them. The best part is they were not made for the suite. The imagineers found them and knew they were perfect!

cinderella castle suite

When they picked this chair out, it was purchased for its size – for kids. However, they were told that this little chair is a “slipper chair”, which people would use to put their slippers/house shoes on. How perfect is that?

cinderella castle suite

I’m still in shock that I have been in the suite!

For the full set of pictures, check out the album on Facebook.

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