Running in concurrence with the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort and Waldorf Astoria Orlando, located within the gates of the Walt Disney World Resort, is offering Food & Wine Weekends, now through November 9.
This special event takes place Fridays through Sundays and offers a taste of the fabulous restaurants and bars inside the Hilton and Waldorf Astoria. Highlights include samplings and exclusive pairing menus from Bull & Bear, La Luce, Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge and Peacock Alley. I recently had the opportunity to experience the event first hand and found it to be a great way to dine at some of the restaurants that I had not tried before.
I began with visiting the lobby kiosk for a Taste of Japan. I sampled three variations of sake, Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake, Takara Plum Wine and Momokawa Silver. They were all unique in taste and all very good. Paired with the sake was a sampling of a California roll from Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge. It was fresh, tasty, and perfectly chilled. I’m very particular about the temperature of my sushi and this was perfect.
Next, I headed into La Luce by Donna Scala to try out the special chef created menu specifically for that night. The menu changes each Friday and Saturday so there’s always something new to try. I started with the Butternut Squash soup which was garnished with a seared Basil leaf. Next up was bruschetta with mozzarella, roasted tomato, and arugula. It was delicious and filling. I still had a little room left so I chose the risotto made with speck, a meat similar to prosciutto, wrapped scallops with wild mushrooms and reggiano. The final course was a divine cannoli made with ricotta and mascarpone cheese, filled with chunks of chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Each course had a recommended wine paired with it, though I chose to slowly sip a glass of Robert Oatley Shiraz throughout my dining experience.
I recently had the opportunity to attend an Aerial silk dance class at Northwest Dance Studio in Orlando. The moment I heard about the class, I said sign me up because when will I ever get the opportunity to do this again.
First a little background on the studio. The studio, directed by Sarah Swindell, opened in 2005 and strives to provide not only dance training but also instill self esteem and confidence in its students. It is focused on reaching out to students in the nearby community and offers them opportunities they otherwise would not be exposed to due to financial or other similar hindrances. Classes offered include ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, aerial silks and more and are open to all ages and abilities. The studio is also home to the Northwest Dance Company which offers the serious student performance opportunities throughout the year. Students learn not only dance and performance technique, but also learn about lighting, music, and stage production.
As I said earlier, as soon as I heard about the aerial silks class, I couldn’t wait to try it. After some stretching and Pilates, our instructor, Sarah, demonstrated the first skill we would learn. She showed us a single leg wrap and how you use it to climb the silk. Of course she made it look extremely easy as she climbed the silk to the top, extended her legs, and then descended quickly and smoothly. The other ladies and I couldn’t wait to try. But oh were we in for a surprise! It’s hard! I quickly discovered that aerial silk dance uses nearly every muscle, even ones you won’t be aware of until the following morning. It requires leg strength, upper body strength, core strength, and even uses the tiny muscles in the fingers and toes. I attempted a back walk over with the silk but need more practice to master that one. The last skill I learned involved tying a knot in the silk that supports the low back. I lay back on the knot and then flipped my hips in a straddle position over my head so that I was upside down. It was very fun and actually stretched out my back muscles. When executed properly, aerial silk dancing is very graceful and elegant. Not sure I’ll ever be ready for Cirque du Soleil but I had a great time trying out something new and I definitely have a new appreciation for how hard these dancers work yet look effortless doing it.
Be sure to check out the Northwest Dance Company’s latest production Maggie, based loosely on the ancient story of Mary Magdalene, featuring aerial skills, contemporary and ballet choreographed to the sounds of an all-original soundtrack. Performances will be held in the Northwest Church Auditorium, 5495 Clarcona-Ocoee Road in Orlando, on Friday March 29, 2013 at 7 P.M. and Sunday March 31 at 9 and 10:30 A.M. and 12 noon. Admission is free and seating is first come, first served. Call the studio for more information regarding this performance and classes for children and adults at 407-490-3345 and visit them at Facebook.com/NorthwestDanceStudio or their website at www.NWDanceOrlando.com.
Walt Disney World RunDisney Princess Weekend is almost here so I’ve compiled a list of tips and reminders to assist you as you prepare.
The Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Royal Family 5K takes place Saturday, February 23 at 6:30 AM and the Princess Half Marathon will be held Sunday, February 24 beginning at 5:35 AM. With just a few days before the race it’s very important to take care of your body by getting as much rest as possible, eating nutritious meals, and hydrating with water and/or sports drinks. If you’re visiting the theme parks before race day, it’s best to take it a leisurely pace, take in the shows and sit down attractions and try to limit the time walking or standing in the sun or heat. Take breaks at the resort to enjoy the pool or take a nap.
Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo will be held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The Expo hours are Friday, February 22 9:00 AM- 7:00 PM and Saturday, February 23 9:00 AM- 6:00 PM. If you are staying at a WDW resort other than Coronado Springs, you will need to utilize bus transportation, labeled with a RunDisney sign. If you are staying off property, park at Downtown Disney Westside to catch the RunDisney bus transportation to Coronado Springs. Parking and guest drop-off during Expo hours is not allowed at Coronado Springs. Be sure to complete and print your race waiver prior to arriving at the Expo and bring your photo identification. At the expo you will pick up your race packet which includes your bib with timing chip, race shirt, and goody bag. This is also the time to pick up any commemorative items you purchased during registration. Be sure to hold onto the large, clear plastic Run Disney bag you are given as this is what you will use for bag check during the race. Expo is a great time to check out the vendors, see new products, visit with fellow runners, and get into the spirit of the race weekend.
Here’s a quick check list of things to do the day/night before the race:
Fill out the back of your race bib with emergency contact and personal information and attach it to your running shirt with provided safety pins
Lay out your entire running outfit including every item you are planning to wear and carry during the race
Prepare your clear plastic Run Disney bag for bag check by affixing your number sticker
Plan your pre-race/early morning breakfast or snack such as a bagel with peanut butter, cereal bar, or fruit
Decide where to meet friends and family following the race
Set your alarm and/or order a wake-up call
Go to bed early and dream about the bling
On the day of the race, give yourself plenty of time for driving and parking or riding WDW transportation. Race transportation including monorail and buses from WDW resort hotels will begin at 3:00 AM and you must board no later than 4:00 AM and in your assigned corral by 5:00 AM. If you are checking a bag, it must be at the bag check area no later than 4:30 AM. There will be food and beverages available for purchase in the Wonder and Imagine lots of Epcot the morning of the race. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your corral and prepare yourself for race.
You’ve trained, prepared, and waited and it’s finally here. Enjoy it! Disney races are full of fun, friends, and surprises…..and there’s a beautiful medal and an amazing sense of accomplishment awaiting you at the finish line.
How did I get involved with run Disney? Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of running……um NO! Honestly, I don’t really even like running. The races are fun but the training is definitely tough and requires discipline. Ok, so let me back up.
So I decided on a whim in November of 2011 to sign up for the Family 5k, or 3.1 miles, during WDW Marathon Weekend 2012. Having never trained before or participated in a race, I decided to join up with other runners on a “team” so I wouldn’t have to do the 5k alone. Being familiar with Lou Mongello and the WDW Radio Show, I knew they had a running team so I signed up for the WDW Radio Running Team. Who knew that one simple 5k and click of a mouse would completely change my life? Arriving at the Epcot parking lot at 4 AM that first morning was scary. I didn’t know these “teammates” I was searching for in the vast crowd. All I knew was that we were all wearing WDW Radio blue….did I mention that the official 5k shirts were blue that year too? So it’s 4AM, chilly and I’m staring at a sea of blue shirts looking for my team. Finally, after a mild panic attack fearing I was going to have to run this race totally alone, I spotted Katie McNamara and Mike Beckerman who I recognized from the facebook page for the running team. I walked over and introduced myself and immediately was welcomed with open arms. The three of us along with Deanna Mongello and Steve Drew ran the race together and honestly, as we neared the finish line we were all a bit sad that it was over. Yes! I actually wanted to keep running so that we could all be together. They all got me through that first race and I knew then and there, these were friends for life. They even humored me by waiting in line to get an official race photo taken with our medallions. Jokingly at the end of the race, Steve and Deanna said, you’ll be doing half marathons before you know it.
I tentatively agreed to do the half in 2013 but first I came home and immediately called my best friend Jaimee Dietz and asked her if she’d run the Royal Family 5k with me in February of 2012. She agreed and we began training together which was infinitely better than running alone. I couldn’t wait to get back to Florida and introduce her to all these wonderful friends that I had met the month prior. Princess Weekend 2012 cemented my addiction to running, my love for Florida, and my adoration for all these new friends. I was also introduced to the amazing Shelley Caran and Shalon Given during this weekend proving that you never know where life is taking you. More on that in a minute! Jaimee and I met people that weekend who are truly our best friends for life. The Royal Family 5k was so much fun; we got to wear tutus and tiaras which totally distracted us from the running aspect of the event.
My next event would be my biggest and scariest challenge, the Tower of Terror 10 miler. This race was tough, it was a night race, and extremely warm and humid. It was a special night though as the race started on Jaimee’s birthday and ended on my birthday. Thanks to Shelley and Shalon for helping us make some cute running shirts to celebrate this. It was also very exciting to get my first real race bling, an actual medal. The 5k medallions are nice but nothing compares to getting your first real medal. I also knew that having completed the 10 miler, I was totally capable of running and finishing the 2013 WDW Half Marathon. So now here we are, January 2013 and its been ten days since I completed my first half marathon. I won’t say it was easy because it wasn’t, but I had amazing teammates to pull me through. I can’t stress enough how much a running buddy can help you when you think you have nothing left inside you. I ran with three guys who had all previously done half’s or full’s so they were very helpful in explaining what and when I needed to eat, how to pace, and just what to expect in general. I’ll always be grateful to my Coral F running buds, Charles Stoddard, Nathan Mauldin, and Mike Beckerman.
So here we are, January 2013 and I have four 5k’s, one 10 miler, and one half marathon in the books. Whew….it’s been quite a year. This year I’m already registered for the Princess 1/2 next month and the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge, a 10k followed by the Disneyland 1/2 marathon, in August.
So why do I keep doing this? What started as a whim turned into a totally new life for me. I lost weight, I raised money for the Dream Team Project benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation, I made lifelong friends, and I moved to Florida so that I could be with them all the time! Without all that, I wouldn’t be writing for this blog, operating my own handmade tutu and hair bow company, challenging myself daily to new things, and living a new life that I couldn’t be happier with.
So why Run Disney? Like most things, Disney exceeds your expectations when they put on an event. The races are filled with so much fun. There’s music, character meet-n-greets along the course, fireworks, after parties, and the BLING! It’s definitely not an inexpensive hobby but I’ve never once felt like I wasn’t getting my money’s worth in a Disney race. Another favorite aspect of race weekends is the camaraderie among runners in the parks following the races. Everyone wears their new bling, from the 5kers to the Goofy participants (those who run a 1/2 followed by a full marathon in one weekend) and congratulate each other as they pass in the parks. Even as I was cheering during the Full Marathon, wearing my 1/2 marathon medal, runners were going by congratulating me! They’re on mile 25 out of 26.1 and they take the time to tell me good job on my accomplishment as they are running by! I can’t forget to mention the amazing volunteers that make these races possible. They hand out water, drinks, biofreeze, and the medals.
Big thanks to On The Go’s own Aurora McBride for personally giving me my very first 1/2 marathon medal this year.
If you’re considering joining the Run Disney family, do it! You won’t regret it. You’ll gain so much more than you can even imagine. So join me, and follow along on my Run Disney journey this year as I go Coast-to-Coast! Happy running!
I recently went on my very first Disney cruise aboard the Disney Dream. It was a great introduction to cruising the Disney way albeit way too short as there are so many fun things to do on this amazing ship. I want to tell you about one tip in particular.
The final day of the cruise was at sea and unusually windy due to storms ahead of us. It was too chilly to sunbathe, swim or brave the Aqua Duck so in my search for something to do, I stumbled across a hidden treasure inside the ships spa, Senses Spa and Salon. This little gem is called the Rainforest Room and includes three sauna-steam rooms, the Laconium, Caldarium, and Hamam. Each sauna-steam room is very relaxing and unique in their own way. One provides a peaceful view overlooking the ocean, one gives you the option of purchasing salt scrubs for added pampering, and one is extremely hot and nearly takes your breath away as you enter. A few minutes in the sauna-steam area is all it takes to feel rejuvenated and refreshed as if all the amazing food you’ve been enjoying throughout the cruise just melts away. After sweating it out in the saunas and steam room, I tried out the variety of ocean inspired showers, each at different temperatures and water pressures. Watch out for the one that starts out nice and warm and shocks you with a blast of cold water! Next I had to try the heated stone loungers which are ergonomically designed and make a great place to relax, read a book, or drift off for a short nap. Finally I ventured out to the deck for a soak in the Jacuzzi where the jets soothed away any remaining stress as I enjoyed the view of the open seas.
Rainforest Room DCL Details
The Rainforest Room DCL at the Senses Spa and Salon aboard the Disney Dream is $16 per day for unlimited access and includes complimentary non-alcoholic drinks, showers and lockers in the changing rooms, and sandals and robes for use in the rooms. Bathing suits must be worn in the Rainforest Room. The spa hours vary and is for guests age 18 and up and also offers many others services and treatments in addition to the Rainforest Room. My only regret is that I didn’t discover the Rainforest Room on day one of my cruise.
This was my second time attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World but my first as an Orlando local. As with most special events, it was almost if not completely sold out, so be sure to arrive as soon as the party begins at 7 PM, though party goers can usually enter the Magic Kingdom as early as 4 PM. I attended on Thursday November 15 and it was slightly chilly by Florida standards which only added to the festivity of the party. Because there are so many “extras” reserved just for party nights, I did not ride any attractions. There is exclusive merchandise available, complimentary cookies and hot cocoa, character photo opportunities and dance parties, special Holiday shows, Holiday Wishes and the not-to-be-missed Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade.
Starting with merchandise, you will find party exclusive pins and apparel in the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A. and at various shops throughout the park. Pins are typically located at the registers and on the night I attended, these party exclusive items were not released until all the day guests had exited the park. The shirts are very popular but I did see some still available in Tomorrowland at the end of the evening.
In terms of dining during the party, quick service is the way to go. Table service meals will take away from valuable party time. Check the party guide map because only certain dining locations are open. There’s always my favorite way to go which is to skip dinner and just enjoy the complimentary chocolate chip cookies, snicker doodles and hot cocoa instead. The party guide map lists all the Holiday Treat locations.
The entertainment is the big draw of the Christmas party. The “Celebrate the Season” Show takes place at the Cinderella Castle Stage three times during the party while “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show” is presented five times nightly on the Tomorrowland Stage. There’s a character dance party in Liberty Square and also in Tomorrowland. Be sure to visit the Town Square Theater on Main Street, U.S.A. for a great holiday photo opportunity with Mickey and Minnie in their holiday best. The Cast Members gave me plenty of time and allowed me to do Photo Pass and also use my personal camera. Finally don’t miss Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade which debuts twice during the party. As with all parades, the first one is typically the most crowded and prime viewing locations fill up quickly.
As with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is about the ambiance in the park, the snow falling on Main Street, U.S.A., the Christmas music wafting through the park, the holiday treats, and all the magical holiday entertainment reserved especially for party goers. As a now-local, I found the party to be a great way to strictly enjoy the magic of Christmas at Walt Disney World without feeling rushed and pressured to ride all my favorite attractions as I can do that at any other time. My advice, even if you are visiting the party as part of your vacation, is to focus on the party specific events and special offerings. It’s truly a magical time and is truly jam packed with holiday festivities.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is held select nights in November and December and often times sell out. Tickets went on sale on May 1, 2012 for this year’s parties. There are advance purchase discounts as well as discounts for Passholders, DVC Members, and military personnel on select nights. So don your festive holiday attire, grab your family and friends and head to the Magic Kingdom for a great way to kick off your holiday celebrations.
Roccos Tacos and Tequila Bar is a fabulous new restaurant located on West Sand Lake Road in Orlando. The decor is very eclectic and representative of what one would find in the tequila region of Mexico. There are beautiful star shaped chandeliers as well as masks of all shapes and sizes along the walls. The restaurant houses three bars, one outside as you approach the front door, another just inside the main entrance, and a third which opens to the outdoor patio situated with a charming lake view. Starting at 9 PM nightly, a live DJ plays a variety of upbeat music, setting a fun and party like atmosphere. The dress code is casual while maintaining a hip and trendy vibe. It’s a family friendly environment but can get very loud so take that into consideration with young children. Dining reservations can be made by phone and walk-ups are taken as well. There is complimentary valet which is recommended due to the limited availability of parking.
Enough logistics, let’s discuss the food! It’s delicious! The menu can be described as upscale Mexican cuisine with a variety of choices. One of the house specialties is the guacamole prepared tableside. Eaten with the house made tortilla chips, it’s almost a meal in itself. Another great appetizer choice is the Queso Fundido Con Chorizo, which is simply a casserole of cheese, Chili’s, and chorizo sausage baked in an iron skillet and served with flour tortillas. There are a variety of other appetizers to choose from, but be sure to save room for the main course!
Rocco’s offers an array of entree choices including salads, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, and combination plates. Within our group, we had the California fish tacos, the chimichanga Nationale, and the carne asada soft tacos. The fish tacos are filled with fried mahi mahi, served with cabbage slaw and avocado ranch, and come with rice and beans for $17. The chimichanga is made with a spicy chicken, also served with rice and beans, and is $13. The carne asada, or grilled skirt steak, tacos were $4.50 each. Speaking of tacos, Tuesday’s are a great time to visit for Taco Tuesdays. For $14.95, it’s all you can eat tacos, in any combination of chicken, pork, spicy beef, steak, mahi, shrimp, chorizo and mushrooms. You can choose from hard or soft shell tacos and all are served with taco sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro, pickled red onions and cotija cheese. The shrimp, mahi, and steak seemed to be the most popular. Rocco’s Tacos also has offerings for kids including chicken fingers, pasta, quesadillas, and hot dogs.
The bar at Rocco’s serves everything from tequila and margaritas to sangria, beer and wine. They have 225 varieties of tequila ranging in price from $6 to $85. The flavored margaritas are not to be missed including pomegranate, mango, and blood orange. When owner Rocco Mangel is in the restaurant, he can be found on the bar in his white platform shoes pouring free Patron to the sounds of the song “Tequila!” A great non-alcoholic treat is the “REAL” Coca Cola made with real sugar cane in Mexico.
Rocco’s Tacos is a great place to go to hang out with friends, grab a drink, enjoy a meal, or bring the whole family. They serve lunch, dinner, and have a limited late night menu along with a full bar during all business hours. The atmosphere and service are top notch as is the quality of the food and drinks. Be sure to check out the newest location in Orlando or try one of the other four locations in South Florida. Visit their website at www.RoccosTacos.com, friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.