Are you #thenextidol? American Idol Auditions coming to Walt Disney World

American Idol Auditions Walt Disney World #thenextidol ESPN Wide World of Sports
Shelley Caran

The search for the next American Idol is beginning once again at Walt Disney World, as the nationwide bus tour for the second season of ABC’s American Idol kicks off on August 25th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

During the auditions, the 220-acre facility that annually hosts more than 100 events ranging from youth sports to professional sports will also have special appearances by ABC’s American Idol Season 1 winner Maddie Poppe, runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson, and finalist Catie Turner.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning to attend the American Idol auditions at the ESPN Wide World of Sports:

  • Early arrival is encouraged.
  • Parking will be available as early as 4 am, but not before.
  • Registration will begin at 7 a.m. with auditions starting at 9 a.m.
  • Overnight camping will not be permitted.
  • Celebrity judges will not be on site.
  • All singers must be at least 15 years old to audition.
  • Pre-registration is encouraged. To pre-register and for additional details, full eligibility requirements, submission forms, and terms and conditions, visit www.americanidol.com/auditions.
  • Those auditioning can bring one guest to accompany them and the guest must be over 5 years old.
  • In addition to appearing in person, hopefuls can submit audition videos online via www.americanidol.com/auditions or by showing off their talents via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Musical.ly using the hashtag #TheNextIdol.

American Idol returns for its second season on ABC (2018-2019) with all-star judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. Emmy-winning producer Ryan Seacrest will also return as host.

For a full list of cities hosting auditions and additional details, visit www.americanidol.com/auditions.

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Nine Tips for Staying Cool in the Theme Parks

Don’t let the fact that it is almost Fall in Central Florida fool you, because staying cool in the theme parks should still be a priority!

These may seem like common sense tips, but there are the things that I like to keep in mind as I prepared for staying cool during a day in the parks with my family and friends.

Nine Tips for Staying Cool in the Theme Parks Pinterest

Nine Tips for Staying Cool in the Theme Parks

Indoor Attractions are the best attractions

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

From 1 to 4 pm the heat is at its worst here in Central Florida, but can be oppressive at time until the sun goes down so you will want to find ways to try to stay inside as much as you can during your time in the parks.

In addition to attractions, these peak times are also great time to catch a show you haven’t seen in awhile. My absolute favorite is For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, because you aren’t living your best theme park life unless you’ve seen parents belting out these songs louder and prouder than their kids. Also Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show, inside Universal Studios Florida, is a fantastic show with very little gore. It’s also worth noting that all of the outdoor shows are SeaWorld Orlando have covered viewing ares or splash zones for some relief from the heat.

Find ways to wait indoors for attractions

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

At all the parks there are several attractions with indoor queues and experiences that are perfect for waiting without the heat. My favorites are Dumbo the Flying Elephant at the Magic Kingdom with it’s indoor play as you wait area, The Mummy at Universal Studios Florida with an intricate queue, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, and The Hogwarts Express at the Universal Resort are three of my favorite rides with indoor queues.

Splurge on dining for a break from the heat

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

Dining in the parks can get quite pricey, but there are several quick service and restaurant locations that offer indoor seating to grab a bite to eat and cool down. If you are looking for a restaurant experience, make sure to get a dining reservation online on the Walt Disney World website or using Open Table for the Universal Orlando Resort and some Disney Springs restaurants.

Prepare for afternoon storms

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

We often have daily showers, and being prepared for these rainy days will help keep your day on track instead of having to stop everything to find cover.

Also please learn from my experience…don’t be fooled by the ‘covering’ over Diagon Alley at Universal Studio Florida, because it has openings and you WILL get wet!

Stay hydrated

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

According to the CDC, it is important to drink fluids before you even begin to feel thirsty. Your body uses thirst to indicate that you are approaching dehydration. Rather than drinking to quench your thirst, it is healthier to continuously replenish fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty at all.

Some other easy things to always remember when it comes to staying hydrated is to avoid soft drinks & alcoholic beverages, cool fluids can help encourage you to drink more during activity in hot weather, and try to have water every 2 hours.

There’s no shame in visiting First Aid

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

If you are not feeling well or are in need of a more intense break from the heat, there is no shame in visiting the First Aid locations in the theme parks. Everyone from attraction attendants to members of the custodial teams will be able to direct you to the nearest and easiest way to help. Please don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help if you need it before it is too late.

Be Prepared

Packing a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Bag - Charger and Cord

A few years ago I created a video on icFlorida.com about beating the heat in the parks with nine key items to bring with you in your ultimate theme park bag, and to save you some time I am sharing that list (with some updates) with you!

1. Pack a Water Misting Fan.

Before we get started I know that it’s not glamorous, but these Water Misting Fans really do the trick! While you can purchase them in the parks, but you can also pick one up before you go at a fraction of the cost at Walmart or Target. A huge bonus is that they also help keep little ones happy while you are waiting or walking around.

2. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Sunscreen isn’t just for the pool, and you will want to follow the recommended directions to reapply for the best results. For everyone’s sake around you, please be careful when you are using an aerosol sunscreen.

3. Umbrellas are extremely useful!

Umbrellas are great for two reasons, they are great shade on the go and they are really useful when a storm pops up in the afternoon as they are wont to do in Orlando. I carry my umbrellas in a zip top bag, so if it does rain I can place my electronics in the bag and when I no longer need the umbrella I can put it in my theme park bag without getting everything else inside wet.

Just keep in mind that if you do use the umbrella for shade that theme park etiquette is that you should put it down before parades and outdoor shows.

4. Think of the children!

Little ones in a stroller will have shade, but they will also overheat easily. You can purchase a battery operated clip fan that will fit on most strollers in the theme parks or at Wal*Mart, Target, or online before you arrive at the park.

5. Stop to splash in the parks.

At all of the parks as well as Disney Springs and Universal’s CityWalk you can find splash pad play areas that are a really fun way to cool off while you are walking around. If this is something you are considering doing the day make sure you come prepared with bathing suits, swim diapers (if necessary), and a towel to make things a lot smoother for the rest of your day.

6. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

Don’t worry about packing a million water bottles in your theme park bag, because anywhere that sells fountain drinks can also provide you with a free glass of ice water. I also like to carry an empty water bottle that can be filled as I need it during the day. Staying hydrated is extremely important!!!

7. Take advantage of cooling towels.

Along the same lines as the misting fan is the cooling towels. Now these have become extremely popular in the parks, but to save some money you can pick one up before arriving at the park. Again, this is something I pack in a plastic bag so I can store it in my backpack without getting everything else soaked.

8. Bring items that make you feel more comfortable.

I always bring what I call my ‘Bag of Necessities’ that I fill with anything from bandaids to chapstick, but making one of your own should really have what makes you feel comfortable in the park!

Download a weather app to your device.

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

Now this one might not be physical, but having a weather app is a major must. My favorite weather app, of course, is the WFTV Channel 9 Weather app, available for android and apple devices. It’s great to have to keep up to date on any weather information, storm warnings, and to keep track of how close lightning is for attraction closures.

Pick the best location for a fun day with the weather in mind

Tips for Beating the heat in the Theme Parks

When you are planning your day, be realistic about your destination. If you and your family don’t do well in the heat, skip parks where there is limited shade or consider visiting a water park.

These are just some of my favorite tips for staying cool in the theme parks, but I would love to hear some of yours in the comments below!

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Dollywood Announces Wildwood Grove Expansion Opening In 2019

Dollywood is making their largest capital investment in their 32-year history with the Wildwood Grove expansion set to open in 2019. The total cost for the expansion is $37 million, meeting The Dollywood Company’s 2013 commitment of $300 million in investments over a 10 year period four years ahead of schedule.

Wildwood Grove Dollywood

Dolly Parton was joined by park officials to talk about this new land that will feature 11 themed experiences, comprised of six new ride attractions, live entertainment, various indoor and outdoor play areas, a new restaurant, nighttime experiences, and the lands icon – the 55 ft. tall Wildwood Tree.

Wildwood Grove is inspired by Dolly’s experiences as a child playing in the forests of the Smoky Mountains.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood

“I’ve told you before about how I’d let my imagination roam free when I’d be out exploring in the hills around our home in the Smoky Mountains,” Parton said. “I’d pretend that the frogs and butterflies were my friends. I’d imagine about what it’d be like to fly with a dragonfly or to follow a bear family through the woods. Now all these things are coming true for our guests to experience in Wildwood Grove; it may be my new favorite part of Dollywood!

“This area is going to give families a place to explore, play and imagine together—but more importantly—it’s a place where they can spend more time together,” she explained. “I believe everyone has a song in their heart that needs to be set free. Wildwood Grove will be a place where families can learn together about what their heart song truly is.”

The new Wildwood Grove will provide an adventurous journey for guests to explore, imagine and play together as a family which begins as soon as guests enter the area, located near the Mystery Mine roller coaster, through the massive hollow trunk of a fallen tree.

As soon as guests enter the area their eyes are drawn to the Wildwood Tree—a tree unlike any other— that serves as the centerpiece of the area. It grows from a cluster of natural rock and boulders, and offers a natural platform for performances throughout the day and night. The green, leafy canopy is adorned with thousands of butterflies that dance playfully in the breeze.

Six new ride attractions will also call Wildwood Grove home that are designed for families to enjoy together.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

The Dragonflier— This thrilling suspended roller coaster lets guests soar with a dragonfly as it dips and darts along the gushing geysers and lush landscape of Wildwood Grove.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

Black Bear Trail— Riders hop on the back of these friendly bears for a spirited trek through their natural habitat. Families will enjoy meandering through the woods of this unique Smoky Mountain experience.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

Sycamore Swing— Guests aboard this thrilling “leaf boat” swing back and forth just like a leaf falling from a giant sycamore tree.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

Treetop Tower— This family tower gives guests a sky-high view of Wildwood Grove as they soar nearly 40 feet in the air. Riders, seated inside giant acorns, spin around the top of a tall oak tree before gently drifting back to the grove floor.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

The Mad Mockingbird— Tennessee’s state bird—the mockingbird—gives visitors a lift as it flies in a high speed circle around a tall tree. Riders control their ride experience by moving a sail as the birds rush above the ground.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

Frogs and Fireflies—These friendly frogs hop up and down as they chase each other around the lily pad trying to catch the flickering fireflies fluttering from the tall reeds and grasses. Adventurous guests can hop aboard for this riveting race.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

Play options abound inside Wildwood Grove. Hidden Hollow, a 4,000 sq. ft. indoor play space, provides a climate-controlled area for families looking to recharge before their next big adventure. With climbing structures, slides and multiple games, play time here is full of exploration. Another refreshing stop for play is at Wildwood Creek where numerous pop jets, splashing pools and more await. There, guests also can discover their musical side thanks to the various “instruments” available to play.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

For the first time at Dollywood, several new friends await guests to the area. In the tradition of the Wildwood butterflies before them, Flit and Flutter—Wildwood Grove’s butterfly ambassadors of beauty and grace—dutifully watch over the Wildwood Tree. While each has their own distinct personality, both Flit and Flutter enjoy interacting with visitors to Wildwood Grove. Guests also can meet Benjamin Bear, a playful friend who loves to explore the grove with new visitors.

Wildwood Grove’s featured dining establishment, named Till & Harvest, offers another great option from Dollywood’s award-winning foods team. Visitors can order from a selection of Southwest fresh favorites, including burritos, salads and more, all with a Southern twist. In addition to traditional entrees and a topping bar with assorted salsas, guests can add items like pulled pork and fresh coleslaw to their selections. A walk-up window provides sweet treats like churros and ice cream.

As with most areas of Dollywood, Wildwood Grove takes advantage of the natural beauty of the surrounding Smoky Mountains. Nearly $1 million has been planned for landscaping the area, with more than 400 trees and 1,000 shrubs helping transform this space into a lush and relaxing spot hidden within the foothills of the Smokies.

Wildwood Grove - Dollywood
Rendering – Dollywood

What makes Wildwood Grove so special is that as the sun sinks in the sky, the area will glow warmly as lanterns and lights glimmer like cheerful fireflies. Once darkness falls, the area sparkles as the Wildwood Tree comes to life each evening in a unique nighttime show that features the butterflies glowing in a kaleidoscope of spectacular color under the canopy of fireworks.

The new expansion is an exciting addition to Dollywood, and I am excited to bring you more information as it becomes available so make sure you follow @onthegoinmco on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Apply now for the Disney Dreamers Academy at Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Dreamers Academy 2019 Applications

The Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine selects 100 high school students for an all-expenses-paid mentoring experience of a lifetime annually, and applications are being accepted now through October 31, 2018.

For more than a decade, the Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired young people, ages 13-19, from across the country by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for the future, and this year the program is scheduled for March 21-24, 2019.

Each year, students participate in hands-on, immersive career seminars in a wide range of disciplines found at Walt Disney World. Participants learn how to improve their communication skills, what it means to be a leader and networking strategies, among other skills. They are also inspired by celebrity speakers and other special guests who share their stories and provide insights on how to achieve their life goals.

disney dreamers academy workshop
2nd from Left: Jaterria Hicks, of Atlanta, Ga., learns medical principles during a medical workshop (Todd Anderson, photographer)

I have had the distinct privilege of attending some pop these outside-the-classroom programs which turn Walt Disney World into a virtual classroom, and to see the students growth over the period of a few days is life changing!

During their time at Walt Disney World students participate in a series of sessions and workshops designed to help them imagine bright futures, make exciting discoveries, and learn how to put their goals into action while working side by side with celebrities, community and industry leaders and Disney cast members.

As the Disney Dreamers Academy moves into their second decade, the organization is focused on challenging young people to relentlessly pursue their dreams through the “Be 100” campaign. This promotional push is inspired by the powerful impact Disney Dreamers Academy has made on graduates, who have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists and more. Some have started their own public relations firms, while others have worked with national political leaders.

The application process is made to inspire creativity without being intimidating, as applicants must answer essay questions about their personal journeys and dreams for the future. Students are selected based on a combination of attributes, including strong character, positive attitude and determination to achieve their dreams.

When applying to the Disney Dreamers Academy, families should keep in mind that a parent or guardian is required to accompany each student on the trip.

For more information or to apply, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com.

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Thoughts on Theme Parks: Five Things I Will Miss When Summer Ends

While the summers in the theme parks of Central Florida may bring images of crazy crowds to your mind, for me this summer was full of amazing special events and offers.

Today I thought I would take a moment to talk about the five that I will miss the most when summer ends in just a few short weeks.

Theme Parks Thoughts When Summer Ends August 1 2018

Theme Parks Thoughts: Five Things I Will Miss When Summer Ends

SeaWorld Orlando

Free Beer

Theme Parks Thoughts When Summer Ends - Free Beer SeaWorld Orlando
Photo: Walt Disney World

SeaWorld Orlando is offering free beer to park guests ages 21 and up through September 2, 2018.

Guests can visit Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen Patio and receive up to two complimentary 7-ounce beers per visit from 10:30 a.m. to one hour before park close.

The park will rotate beer offerings throughout the summer starting off with SeaWorld’s very own Mako Red Ale. Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Light, Yuengling, and more will also be featured throughout the summer.

Walt Disney World

Incredible Tomorrowland Expo at Magic Kingdom

Theme Parks Thoughts When Summer Ends - Tomorrowland Expo Incredible Summer
Photo: Walt Disney World

Until September 3 Disney•Pixar Super Heroes will take over Tomorrowland, as part of an Incredible Tomorrowland Expo that celebrates “all things super.”

Meet Mr. Incredible, Frozone, and other supers including Edna Mode for the first time from Disney•Pixar’s “The Incredibles” and upcoming “Incredibles 2.

Tomorrowland is also be decked out with Incredibles décor and sounds from the film, and it would be a celebration without a dance party on the Rocket Tower Stage.

Also, don’t forget to take time to spend time with the ‘Cosplay Supers’ who are attending the Tomorrowland Expo!

The Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live! Concert Series at Epcot

Theme Parks Thoughts When Summer Ends - Guardians of The Galaxy Live Concert Epcot
Photo: Walt Disney World – David Roark, photographer

Star-Lord and Gamora from “Guardians of the Galaxy” host a show that takes a musical journey through the cosmos in The Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live! concert series.

The show features tunes from Star-Lord’s Awesome Mixtapes, the soundtrack from the two movies.

The show is super high energy, full of tons of fun, and is performed five times daily through August 19th.

Disney H20 Glow Party Nights

Theme Parks Thoughts When Summer Ends - H2O Glow Nights Party Typhoon Lagoon
Photo: Walt Disney World

When the sun goes down, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon transforms on select evenings until August 11 into a massive glow party from 8 pm until 11 pm.

Guests can enjoy special entertainment, Disney PIXAR character meet and greets, exclusive menu items and beverages, and tons of glow-in-the-dark fun.

This is an especially awesome way to visit Typhoon Lagoon, because the lines are really short with fantastically fun entertainment and delightful menu & bar additions. Plus the event gets extra bonus points for not having to worry about sunscreen!

Tickets $55 per person plus tax for adults and $50 per person plus tax for children ages 3-9. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (407) 939-1872.

Disney Springs

Brews and BBQ Trail

Theme Parks Thoughts When Summer Ends - Disney Springs Brews and BBQ Trail
Photo: Walt Disney World

Until September 3, you can take a culinary exploration of Brews and BBQ at Disney Springs.

Discover a whole new host of tasty and unique food and beverage pairings as you stroll through the many restaurants and shops throughout the area to visit the 23 different locations across Disney Springs.

And what’s more? For guests ages 21 and older, each of these dishes can be paired with a crisp, craft-brewed beer!

To make the most of your visit, make sure to pick up a map of the participating restaurants and kiosks at the Disney Springs Welcome Center, located in Town Center.

You can find the menus for all the stops on my post over on icFlorida.com!

With every ending comes a new beginning, and tomorrow I will be sharing what I can’t wait to experience this Fall in the theme parks of Central Florida!

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