O-Town MacDown With Give Kids The World

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What does America’s favorite pasta dish and Give Kids The World (GKTW), one of Central Florida’s greatest children’s charities, have in common? They are both going to be part of the inaugural O-Town MacDown Presented by SeaWorld at the Orange County Convention Center on Saturday, August 23 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.!

Do you love mac-n-cheese? Does your mac-n-cheese have a secret ingredient that sets it above the rest? Join GKTW for O-Town  MacDown and enjoy an unbe-CHEESE-able afternoon of fun and food the whole family will enjoy! Gather the family and come stuff your face with mac-and-cheese and help determine the Mac-and-Cheese Kings and Queens of Central Florida, all to benefit kids with life-threatening illnesses.

Of course, whether you are a professional chef, a restaurant chef or a home cook with the tastiest mac-and-cheese in your neighborhood, you are invited to show off your best cheesy concoction and see if you can earn bragging rights as well as cash and great prizes! PLUS, the first 40 competitors to sign up by July 1 will be entered to win a pair of AAdvantage Airmile Certificates from American Airlines!

The winners of the professional and restaurant competitions at O-Town MacDown will have the opportunity to face off on stage in front of their colleagues at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show, to be held two weeks later in Orlando, Florida. Both winners will compete at the Show’s Food Trends Experience Culinary Demonstration Theater for the title of Best Mac ‘n Cheese in Orange County. They also will be featured on the Show’s website leading up to the event and promoted heavily at the show.

The unique and family-fun O-Town MacDown will include cooking demonstrations, live entertainment, a performance by Tony Brent from the Outta Control Dinner Show, appearances by the SeaWorld “Groove Chefs” and unlimited mac-n-cheese. Kids can have a blast in the Kid’s Zone including bounce houses, face painting and macaroni arts and crafts.

Tickets are going fast, get yours online now at $10 for adults and $5 for children (tickets higher at the door). It’s going to be a GOUDA time, so don’t miss it! Visit www.OTownMacDown.org for tickets and registration information.

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Disney’s Harambe Nights Review

Harambe NightsThis past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the opening of Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The party is running for the next nine Saturday nights through the summer. You can see our previous posts about Harambe Nights here and here. Our tickets to the event were complimentary, but all opinions are my own. Please note that this Saturday, June 14th is currently sold out completely, where all other nights are sold out for premium, but still have general tickets available.

We arrived at the park for Harambe Nights plenty ahead of time so we’d have time to wander around and not have to rush back to the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The party starts at 7pm with appetizers and drinks before the show, but we got there around 5:30pm since our tickets were at will call. When you arrive, you will receive a wristband with your designated section for the show. We were in the Zebra section, which ended up appearing to be the best of the options, so if you can, try to request the Zebra section.

The park was mostly cleared by the time we arrived since it was closing at 7pm, so we had no wait for security and only one person in front of us for our will call tickets. As we entered the park, we were given programs for the evening with the schedule of events for Harambe Nights along with the detailed menu and merchandise offerings. Cast Members told us we were welcome to enjoy the park, but to try to head towards Africa around 6:30pm. We decided to just head that way, taking our time with obligatory Tree of Life pictures along the way.

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When we arrived in Africa, most of the seating area around Tusker House and the Dawa Bar was already taken. So, if you are going for this event only and aren’t spending time ahead of Harambe Nights doing attractions, get there early if you want to sit and relax with a drink, or get there closer to 7pm for the start. As 7pm rolled around, we entered the area to the left of Tusker House to head along the water back towards the brand new Harambe Theatre. Tables were setup to stand at while you enjoyed your appetizers and drinks. Several buffet tables were setup throughout the area with the appetizers and then multiple drink stations were spread out as well. Burudika played African music, face painters went around offering to paint guests’ faces, and cultural ambassadors were available to teach guests information about their home countries in Africa.

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About half an hour later, we were advised to start queuing up in our respective animal sections to head into the Harambe Theatre for The Lion King: Concert in the Wild. The show is the heart of Harambe Nights, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of The Lion King film with a celebrity narrator, chorus, dancers, orchestra and film clips. Seating is done much like that during The Festival of the Lion King, so it is rather random where you will end up as far as in a low or high row, in the middle or on the end. We ended up exactly center in the second row back of our section and it was a fantastic view. If you can, try to time your seating accordingly to give yourself the best chance of a good view.

Our narrator for Harambe Nights was Viola Davis, star of movies like Doubt and The Help. The narrators, both celebrity and a cast narrator, serve to move forward the story in between clips, dancing and chorus singing, but also read lines as characters in addition to narrating. It would be interesting to see the different narrators and how they change up each show. Viola Davis was highly entertaining and did a great job. The group of about singers sat on stage off to the one side, while the orchestra was positioned on the opposite side of the stage. To me, the interpretive dancers really stole the show. Their dances were of a tribal nature, but seemed to combine elements of contemporary dance also to make very powerful performances. During the show, guests are able to snack on the Lion Chow, a trail mix of sorts created for the show, and guests were also permitted to bring in drinks. Premium seats are about 10-15 rows on the floor in front of the stage, and then the three sides facing the stage are used for bleacher seating general admission. A nice addition to the metal bleacher seats were pads that were taped down to add comfort since it is an almost hour long show. Another thing to make note of is that there is no intermission, so make sure you go to the bathroom before the show starts.


After the amazing Concert in the Wild, Harambe Nights really kicked into full gear. When we exited the Harambe Theatre, we entered the village of Harambe and were greeted by tables and chairs setup throughout the area. Buffet tables were setup with different stations, DJ Khalifa played music, while dancers invited guests to join them dancing in front of the stage. Several of the floats from Mickey’s Jamming Jungle Parade were setup like the giraffe for guests to have their pictures taken with, and other stilt characters walked around. In addition to this, several Disney characters walked around to meet with guests. This was a bit different experience because there weren’t any queues, you just kind of had to follow the characters around to get their picture. Timon and Rafiki from The Lion King were there to see Harambe Nights. Pluto and Goofy also joined in the fun. My favorites though, were Mickey and Minnie in costumes I’d never seen before that appear to be unique to this event.

After we hit the first buffet table, we grabbed seats at a table partially under cover since rain was threatening. Since Harambe Nights is taking place in the evening throughout the summer when showers are often prevalent, it may be advisable for someone in your party to stake out a table under cover in the event it does start sprinkling like it did for us. We then took turns going to get plates at each of the buffet stations, as well as exploring the dance party, seeing the characters, and just enjoying all Harambe Nights had to offer.


As far as the food and drink offerings, I was not disappointed. I started out the evening trying the jungle juice concoction that was pineapple and guava juice, which the bartender offered to add rum to, which ended up being a nice refreshing addition. My favorite of the appetizers were the beef kefta meatballs and the spicy durban chicken. I will say, if you are a fan of Jiko, Tusker House, Boma or Sanaa, you should really enjoy most if not all of the food available. Harambe Nights provides open bars for guests 21 and older from the time the party starts at 7pm up until the end of the party at 10:30pm. I noticed a selection of African beers, wine, rum, punch, soda and bottled water throughout the night. My favorite items from dinner were the samosas with mango chutney, bbq pork, butter chicken with basmati rice and legumes, and the bread service. They even have more tame things like macaroni and cheese, cheeseburger roll ups, and salad items for those less adventurous eaters. Because I tried a bite of literally every appetizer and entree, I did not have room for dessert. I also was avoiding the dessert table because there were items on it that I am allergic to, but was pleasantly surprised to see they also offered Mickey Ice Cream Bars.

Once we finished eating, we took our time heading out, stopping to take pictures with several of the photopass photographers. If you have Memory Maker, Harambe Nights is a great place to get some of those once in a lifetime, late night, empty park pictures that are so rare. We got a couple of really nice shots of us and were really glad we had Memory Maker to take advantage of for them. On the way out, we noticed a procession of more parade character animals and floats heading back towards Harambe from the Tree of Life where we were told by Cast Members to make sure we checked out on our way out. The Tree of Life had added blue twinkling lights to the usual lighting to add some extra sparkle to the night.


Overall, I was very happy with Harambe Nights. It was great entertainment accompanied by fantastic food from some of my favorite restaurants. I went in thinking the price was a bit high for a hard ticket event to be honest, but after experiencing everything, it is a great value and well worth the price. I would stick to the general admission as a shorter person since the premium floor seats aren’t elevated and would have been difficult for me to see the stage since it is only slightly raised. Make sure you go prepared for inclement weather and also dress for comfort. You may be inclined to dress up since it is similar to dinner and a show, but you are still going to a theme park in summer. Keep in mind you will be doing a bit of walking since Harambe Nights takes place in the back of the park.

Are you planning on going to Harambe Nights? Did you make it to opening night? I hope Disney continues with this wonderful new addition to nighttime entertainment after hours at the theme parks.

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Star Wars Weekends: June 13-15, 2014

Star Wars Weekends 2014Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is well under way, and with so many great things happening during this special event I thought I would summarize what you will find going on!

Admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is required for Star Wars Weekends, and availability is limited for some events so get to your destination early! Also listen for updates throughout the day as events may be cancelled at any time!

Star Wars Weekends: June 13-15, 2014

Scheduled Celebrity Appearances

A highlight of Star Wars Weekends is having the chance to get an autograph from an actual Star Wars Celebrity around Echo Lake! Be warned though, this is not something everyone will be able to do so make sure you choose your celebrity wisely and get there extremely early!

Disney FASTPASS Ticket Required  An extremely limited number of FASTPASS tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first served basis at the main entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to the right of the turnstiles. Based on demand, distribution may begin prior to Park opening. Please note: You must have a FASTPASS ticket to receive an autograph.

To receive a FASTPASS ticket:

  • Join the line of the celebrity you would most like to meet. You may not save a place in line for other party members.
  • While in line, you will receive a wristband. Your wristband along with your theme park ticket or pass will entitle you to receive one autograph FASTPASS ticket. Only one autograph FASTPASS ticket will be distributed per Guest. Each Guest must be present to receive a FASTPASS ticket. You may not get FASTPASS tickets for other members of your party.

After receiving your FASTPASS ticket, continue to wear your wristband. You will need to be wearing your wristband to get an autograph.   Your FASTPASS ticket will have a designated autograph return time. Until that time, you may enjoy other Star Wars Weekends activities. At your designated time, proceed to the Celebrity Autograph Location at Echo Lake to show your wristband and present your FASTPASS ticket.   Once FASTPASS tickets for visiting celebrities are distributed, we may distribute a limited number of “stand-by” tickets with a return time. “Stand-by” tickets do not guarantee you an autograph.   Please note: Receiving a FASTPASS ticket for an autograph at Star Wars Weekend will not restrict you from reserving access with FastPass+ for additional attractions, entertainment and more at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Star Wars Weekends celebrities for June 13-15, 2014 are:

  • Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex / the Clones, Bossk and several additional characters – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
  • Cat Taber (Padmé Amidala and several additional characters – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
  • Tom Kane (Yoda, the series narrator and several additional characters –Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
  • Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker and several additional characters – Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
  • Steve Blum (Zeb Orrelios – Star Wars Rebels)

Character Meet and Greets

Wordless Wednesday

In addition to an awesome variety of Star Wars Characters that you can find walking throughout the Star Wars Weekends crowds, you can find special meet and greets at the following locations:

  • Meet Disney Pals as Star Wars Stars in Darth’s Mall
  • Meet the Heroes of the Clone Wars Near the Premiere Theater
  • Meet the Dark Side near Darth’s Mall
  • Meet Members of the Jedi Council near Premiere Theater
  • Meet Members of the Rebel Alliance Near Star Tours® – The Adventures Continue


Star Wars Weekends Stormtrooper

Throughout Star Wars Weekends there are some AMAZING opportunities to interact with characters, participate in great shows, and see fireworks that will blow your mind!

  • Stormtroopers at the Gate – Hollywood and Vine Intersection: Watch out for this duo, as their mission is to keep the ‘Rebel Scum’ in line.

  • Boba Fett Patrol: Boba Fett patrols the Star Wars Weekends Event Stage, and this is your chance to get up close and talk to the universe’s most relentless bounty hunter.

  • Stormtrooper Patrol: In addition to Boba Fett, you can find Stormtroopers patrolling and guarding the Star Wars Weekends Event Stage. They might ask you a few questions, so be cool!

  • Legends of the Force:  Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade – 11:30 am: The Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade is filled with Star Wars celebrities, characters, and lots & lots of Stormtroopers! The motorcade begins at the front of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and makes its way to the Star Wars Weekends Event Stage with an awesome welcome and photo opportunity.

  • DJ Lobot Dance Party – 7:00 pm: Dance to the tunes that DJ Lobot is spinning in front of the Star Wars Weekends Event Stage.
  • Symphony in the Stars – 9:30 pm: If you haven’t seen fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you are missing out! This year Hyperspace Hoopla (I am crying as I type this) has been replaced with this spectacular fireworks show, and if you have ‘Glow with the Show’ ears you are going to want to bring them along!

  • Padawan Mind Challenge – 1:00 pm, 2:15 pm, 4:15 pm, and 6:30 pm: Younglings ages 4-11 will enjoy the Padawan Mind Challenge where your intergalactic hosts ask some fun and interactive Star Wars trivia challenges with a few surprises.

  • Jedi Training Academy – 8:45 am, 9:20 am, 10:05 am, 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 1:00 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:00 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:00 pm, 3:30 pm, 4:00 pm, 4:30 pm, 5:00 pm, 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:00 pm, and 7:30 pm: Kids under 12 can hone their lightsaber skills at the Jedi Training Academy with extra opportunities than normal during Star Wars Weekends. 

Celebrity Presentations

Star Wars Weeekends

During Star Wars Weekends, the Premiere Theater plays home to some exceptional experiences that include the celebrities visiting the celebration for the weekend.

Make sure that you check to see if there are any FastPass+ available for the following shows!

Some of the scheduled presentations include:

  • Behind the Force – Star Wars:  Rebels – 1:45 pm Ashley Eckstein, who is the voice behind Ahsoka Tano, and special guests give a behind-the-scenes “sneak peek” of the upcoming TV show Star Wars: Rebels.

  • Stars of the Saga – 3:30 pm James Arnold Taylor, the Star Wars Weekends 2014 host, and special guests share 30 minutes look into the fascinating lives and movie-making adventures with some of the stars from the Star Wars saga. It’s a talk-show format that is full of fun and surprises!

  • Stormtrooper Pre-Show Make sure you head to the Premiere Theater15 minutes prior to Stars of the Saga for a unique and immersive pre-show featuring several Imperial Stormtroopers on a special assignment. I always make sure to get to the Theater early to catch this!!!

  • Obi-Wan and Beyond starring James Arnold Taylor – 7:00 pm James Arnold Taylor, from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, gives us a glimpse into the world of voice acting. James performs over 200 popular and iconic characters, and Zoe LOVES this show!

Special Food and Beverage Options

What would a special event at Walt Disney World be without special food and beverage offerings???


Star Wars Weekends have some pretty awesome ones this year that are only available during event weekends!

  • Darth Vader Cupcake: Available at Sunset Ranch Market, ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Company, Pizza Planet Arcade and Darth’s Mall

  • Yoda Cupcake: Available at Backlot Express, Starring Rolls and Darth’s Mall

  • Darth Vader Souvenir Popcorn Bucket with Caramel or Regular Popcorn: Available at Popcorn Carts and Darth’s Mall

  • Stormtrooper Souvenir Mug with Fountain Beverage: Available at Sunset Ranch Market, ABC Commissary, Backlot Express, Studio Catering Company, Pizza Planet Arcade

  • Admiral Ackbar’s Snackbar in Darth’s Mall featuring a variety of snacks and refreshments.

Throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios you will find additional food, beverage, and alcoholic beverage locations have been added. 


Star Wars Weekends 2014 Darth's Mall

Star Wars Weekends event merchandise can be found in Darth’s Mall sponsored by HP which will be located between Toy Story Mania and the Studios Backlot Tour this year.

Again, be prepared for some crazy lines!!! But the treasures inside are worth the wait!

Once inside you will find limited edition pins, specialty gift cards, artwork, collectibles, and commemorative apparel for the entire family!

In addition to Star Wars Weekends logo’ed items, you will also find the Her Universe line of apparel by Ashley Eckstein.

Star Wars Weekends Stage

I know that we are all stoked about Star Wars Weekends, and can’t wait to share all of the fun! So make sure you are following our adventures on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!

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