Osborne Lights Hidden Gems

Osborne lights
Osborne lights history display

As many of you already know, this is sadly the last year for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After 20 years the lights will be packed up to make way for some awesome new changes coming to the Studios in the forms of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land over the next few years. We can certainly hope that the Osborne Lights will return to us in some incarnation down the road, even in another location would be fine, but for now we have to assume that this is the end.

I don’t mean to say this in a melancholy way, but rather to give each and every one of you the encouragement to go out and catch the Osborne Lights for one final (or first) time if there’s any way you can. The last night will be Sunday, January 3rd, 2016, and I am personally planning to be there until they shut it down and kick me out. The lights started just three years before I moved to Florida and first experienced the Osborne Lights in their previous home on Residential Street in 1998. They moved the lights to the Streets of America in 2004 after Residential Street closed. For the past 17 years the lights have been the highlight of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World and are my must do above all other holiday traditions here.

This year it seems that the Imagineers have gone an extra step in adding even more hidden gems to the light display as a final send off. Each year it has been tradition to find the black/purple cat that was mixed in from Halloween decorations from the Osborne family. The first fifteen or so years the cat was placed once and stayed in the same location for the whole duration of the lights in November and December. The last few years the Cast Members made a fantastic decision to move around the cat from week to week, which makes it even more fun for those of us who are fortunate enough to go multiple times throughout the eight weeks of the Osborne Lights.

Among some of the fun things I have discovered hidden in the lights the year, in addition to the dozens of hidden Mickeys, are some other characters in lights, some peeking out of windows, others hanging from fire escapes, and even more in window displays. You can literally spend hours exploring all the corners of the 7+ million light display. I love that the canopy on San Francisco Street and how it has changed over the years, now including one of my favorite dancing projections of Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas when What’s This plays. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite pictures of the Osborne Lights and a few of these hidden gems that I’ve discovered. I hope that you all have gotten a chance or will get to see the lights before they shine and dance for the last time on January 3rd.

All white angel in memory of Jennings Osborne
All white angel in memory of Jennings Osborne
Arkansas Razorback
Arkansas Razorback
Osborne family stockings hung above the fire
Osborne family stockings hung above the fire
Tinkerbell
Tinkerbell
Incredibles logo
Incredibles logo
Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo
Mickey and Minnie silhouettes
Mickey and Minnie silhouettes
Hidden Mickey and Jack Skellington
Hidden Mickey and Jack Skellington
Scrooge McDuck
Scrooge McDuck
Mary Poppins penguin in top window
Mary Poppins penguin in top window
Clarabelle Cow in upper right window
Clarabelle Cow in upper right window
Tony's from Lady and the Tramp
Tony’s from Lady and the Tramp
Hanging upside down Animal
Hanging upside down Animal
Miss Piggy
Miss Piggy
Kermit hanging on the ladder
Kermit hanging on the ladder
Kermit playing banjo
Kermit playing banjo
Hidden Baymax head
Hidden Baymax head
Mr. Potato Head Santa Claus
Mr. Potato Head Santa Claus
Roger Rabbit
Roger Rabbit
Santa Stitch
Santa Stitch
Dalmatians
Dalmatians
Dancing stars on the canopy
Dancing stars on the canopy
Jack Skellington head
Jack Skellington head
Toy Story Alien
Toy Story Alien
Star Wars First Order and Jedi symbols
Star Wars First Order and Jedi symbols
Hidden Olaf in white at the bottom of the window
Hidden Olaf in white at the bottom of the window
Purple cat 1
Purple cat 1
Purple cat 2
Purple cat 2
Purple cat 3, Hidden Mickey, and Toy Story Alien
Purple cat 3, Hidden Mickey, and Toy Story Alien
See You Real Soon
See You Real Soon
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Bond Wishes

BondToday marks the official opening of the latest James Bond film, SPECTRE, in the United States. This 24th installment in the official Bond series has been widely anticipated for months now. U.K. box office records have been smashed with the opening of SPECTRE, and I have high hopes for a very strong performance after following up from Skyfall being a massive hit in 2012. Daniel Craig dons the tux for the fourth times as 007 and I cannot wait to see this movie. As I mentioned previously in our fall round table, this is the second most anticipated film of the year for me, just behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you haven’t already, go back and check out my post on SPECTRE and why I cannot wait for this movie here.

Before I see this movie, probably multiple times in the next few weeks if it is half as good as the trailer seems to be, I wanted to share some of my wishes for this James Bond movie.

SPECTRE is the classic organization featured in Ian Fleming’s original stories as well as most of the Sean Connery era Bond flicks. I hope they reintroduce this group of baddies in a fresh way, but still paying homage to the Bond films of the 60s and early 70s.

To take this one step further, I’d love to learn the connection between SPECTRE and Quantum, and I’m sure Mr. White is somehow involved.

Bring Blofeld back! It doesn’t have to be the Oberhauser character that Christoph Waltz is playing, but I do want to see the return of the criminal mastermind in this or Bond 25 in a couple years.

I need to see a classic M/Q/Moneypenny scene in and around M’s office with the double red quilted leather doors. Ralph Fiennes as M needs to go back to treating Bond like Bernard Lee did back in the beginning. He acts as a scolding father figure who always has his agent’s best interest at heart, but never loses sight of the mission.

A return to the gun barrel opening with Daniel Craig as Bond would be amazing! This is just one of the quintessential Bond elements I would love to see in SPECTRE.

Another element I’ve been missing is a great action skiing scene reminiscent of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, and The World Is Not Enough. Maybe we can skip the cheesiness of the snowboarding to the Beach Boys’ California Girls in A View to a Kill.

Speaking of music, I’d love to hear more of the James Bond theme used properly at dramatic or action filled moments.

Lastly, I would adore a return to some of the fun, quippy one liners that we got with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. I understand this has been a reboot and was going for a darker tone, but just throw me a couple fun moments and I’d be a very happy Bond girl.

Are you planning on seeing SPECTRE this weekend? Are you one of the lucky ones overseas who has already been to see this new Bond film? What are you most looking forward to?

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Falling in Love with Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin
Image copyright CW

I have found a new love in my life, and it is a tv show called Jane the Virgin. This fantastically quirky, heartfelt, and humorous show debuted on the CW in 2014 and just started its sophomore season a few weeks ago.

Gina Rodriguez plays the title character whose full name is not really Jane the Virgin, but Jane Gloriana Villanueva. Jane is 23 when we first meet her, and despite the fact she’s in a two year committed relationship with her boyfriend, Michael, she is still a virgin. This is almost completely due to the influence of Jane’s abuela (grandmother), Alba, who Jane lives with, along with Jane’s mother Xiomara. Alba is originally from Venezuela and is a devout Catholic. Xiomara had Jane when she was only sixteen, so it is Alba’s mission to protect Jane’s virtue and to not let Jane follow her mother’s path.

The show is set in Miami and is so delightful with the cast of characters. The best way I have come up with to describe this fantastic show is a wonderful combination of the Gilmore Girls, a Mexican telenovela (soap opera), and the magical realism of author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, infused with the hallucinations of Ally McBeal. For Gilmore Girls fans, there are many similarities between Jane and Rory, and Xiomara is a much looser interpretation of Lorelai. Jane is hardworking, determined, goal oriented, and loves her family. She also longs to know her father, but Xiomara lied to Jane telling her he was a soldier on leave. In reality, Jane’s father was Xiomara’s high school love, Rogelio de la Vega, who turns out to now be a megastar on the Villanueva family’s favorite telenovela, The Passions of Santos.

The premise of Jane the Virgin is tricky, but I’ll try to explain in the least complicated way I can. It is a soap after all, complete with a narrator and captions on the screen. Jane lives at home with her mom and grandma, is in a loving relationship with Michael, is finishing up her undergraduate degree in education with hopes of becoming a teacher. To help pay her way through school, Jane works as a waitress at an upscale hotel on South Beach called the Marbella.

Here is where it starts to get complicated. Jane the Virgin works for the super hot young hotel owner, Rafael Solano, with whom she had shared a kiss five years prior when she was a waitress at the country club where he belonged. Rafael is married to Petra, who wants to have his baby to save their troubled marriage. He previously had cancer, but is now in remission, so Rafael had saved some sperm prior to his chemo with hopes of eventually having a child with Petra after she miscarried a few years earlier.

Petra is now taking Rafael’s sample to her ob/gyn to be artificially inseminated, without his knowledge. It so happens that Jane is at the same doctor for her annual exam. The doctor also coincidentally is Rafael’s half-sister Luisa, who is very upset, having found her wife cheating on her the night before. Even though her nurse tells Luisa correctly that she has an insemination in one room and an exam in the other, Luisa mixes up the rooms and goes into Jane the Virgin’s room. Luisa asks the exhausted and partially sleeping Jane if she’s ready for her insemination and Jane pulls a “what? yeah” out. So Jane is accidentally inseminated with her boss Rafael’s specimen, then Luisa enters the second room to find Petra there waiting to be inseminated. Did I mention this was also Rafael’s only remaining sample?

As you can imagine, hilarity, and a good bit of drama ensues once it is discovered that Jane the Virgin is pregnant with the baby her boss’ wife was trying to surprise him with and it was his half-sister that caused the mix up. Many soap opera tropes appear like hidden identities, twin swapping, unknown parentage, affairs, and of course murder.

Having said all of this, Jane the Virgin is one of the funniest and most lighthearted shows I’ve seen. I highly recommend you check it out. The first season is streaming on Netflix and available on dvd, and the first four episodes of this season are still streaming online at the CW. Jane is one of my favorite characters on tv ever. She is intelligent, independent, loving, and hilarious. Go watch Jane the Virgin now and I bet you’ll fall in love too!

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Gearing up for Thanksgiving at Disney World

Disney Vacation Club Thanksgiving
Image copyright Disney

This week marks a shift from Halloween to Christmas in the Disney parks, but let’s not forget about Thanksgiving in between. Although the decorations may be overlooked, or at least overshadowed by Christmas, Thanksgiving still has a presence at Walt Disney World.

In the parks and at several of the resorts, Disney has a wide variety of restaurants that are offering Thanksgiving meals for lunch and/or dinner. Here are the restaurants that are offering meals on Thanksgiving that vary from their regular menus:

Animal Kingdom

Tusker House

 

Epcot

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Biergarten

Coral Reef

Le Cellier

Restaurant Marrakesh

Rose & Crown

Tutto Italia

Via Napoli

Hollywood Studios

50’s Prime Time Cafe

Hollywood & Vine

Disney Springs

Fulton’s Crab House

Planet Hollywood

Portobello Country Italian Trattoria

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant

The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

Resorts

Artist Point

Boatwright’s Dining Hall

California Grill

Cape May Cafe

Captain’s Grille

Chef Mickey’s

Citricos

End Zone Food Court

Flying Fish Cafe

Fresh Mediterranean Market

Garden Grove

Grand Floridian Cafe

Jiko

Kona Cafe

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ

Narcoossee’s

Olivia’s Cafe

Sanaa

Shutters at Old Port Royale

The Turf Club

The Wave

Trail’s End

Trattoria al Forno

Victoria & Albert’s

Whispering Canyon Cafe

Yachtsman Steakhouse

 

Most of these restaurants are offering both lunch and dinner meals special for Thanksgiving. As always, things are subject to change and it is best to contact Disney Dining directly with any questions or to make reservations at 407-939-3463.

 

A few of the resorts will also be having special recreation activities for Thanksgiving if you are staying there as a guest on November 26th.

Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary is hosting an Autumn Festival from 3:30 – 8:30pm. They will have “fun games, crafts, giveaways and more” according to the recreation calendar.

Disney’s Old Key West Resort will have activities starting at 12:30pm with Football Fun. This is followed by a pool party, “Gobble ’til you Wobble,” design your own turkey themed cupcake, s’mores, and then Pocahontas will be the Movie Under the Stars at 7:00pm.

Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is following the same schedule as Old Key West at the High Rock Spring Pool. At the Paddock Pool starting at 12:30pm also will be Make Your Own Turkey Hat. After that will be the pool party, Football Fun, Pine Cone Turkeys, and then the Disney Junior pool party.

 

If you happen to be at Walt Disney World this Thanksgiving, check out some of these great offerings!

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Flashback Friday: My First 5K Race

RaceA little over five years ago, I completed my first 5K race. To some this may not have been a big deal, but to me it was huge. I had just had major knee surgery two years before and really had to train and work hard to be able to complete the race in close to the “required” 16 minute per mile pace.

Why do I bring this up now, you ask? It was a Halloween themed race, the inaugural Mickey’s Halloween 5K, and to my knowledge, the only 5K to go through the Magic Kingdom. Plus, we are on the verge of back to back runDisney race weekends starting next week.  This was also one of the most fun races I’ve ever done out of my almost twenty races to date.

So, I thought I’d share some of my pictures and memories from the race since it is almost Halloween. It started at the Transportation and Ticket Center, then the race course went on World Drive under the water bridge and up to the Contemporary. The course took a left along the bus loop and into the Magic Kingdom.

Not ready for the race
Not ready for the race
Entering the Magic Kingdom
Entering the Magic Kingdom
Chip and Dale
Chip and Dale

Stepping onto Main Street for the first time as a part of a race was magical to say the least. Cast members greeted us and cheered as we approached the castle. There were even a good amount of characters like Chip, Dale, and Goofy  dressed up in Halloween costumes meeting guests along the course. There were also villains like Jafar, the Queen of Hearts, as well as Tweedles Dee and Dum, Buzz, and Woody.

Castle
Castle
Queen of Hearts and Tweedles
Queen of Hearts and Tweedles
Grave digger
Grave digger

I loved running down Main Street, through Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, the Hub, and out through Tomorrowland. My second favorite part of the race aside from running through the park was seeing the Haunted Mansion grave diggers posing with runners pretending to be dead in front of a grave on the ground complete with headstone. One of my biggest race regrets was not stopping for this photo op. Luckily, I was able to do it a few years later during another 5K.

Running under the water bridge
Running under the water bridge
Mickey and Minnie at the finish
Mickey and Minnie at the finish
Finished!
Finished!

 

I don’t know how many others of you got to experience this 5K through the Magic Kingdom, but it was definitely my favorite 5K here. Happy Halloween!

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Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar Movie Tie Ins

movie tie ins
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

Shelley and I went to the grand opening of the Indiana Jones movie themed Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar a few weeks ago. You can check out her post on it here. Today I’d like to focus on a few of my favorite details that tie in to the Indiana Jones movies. I will focus primarily on the original trilogy of movies. If you aren’t familiar, Jock was Indy’s pilot in the first movie in the series, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Jock helped rescue Indy in the opening sequence from the South American tribe that was chasing him when he finds the idol. When the adventurous Dr. Jones jumps into Jock’s plane, we first learn of Indy’s fear of snakes, when he is introduced to Jock’s pet snake, Reggie.

Reggie is one of the more prominent characters, or evidence of the snake is rather. You can see this is the slightly pryed open cage that Reggie once resided in, as well as the potent looking libation glowing in a container on the bar labeled “Reggie’s Revenge.”

Reggie's empty cage
Reggie’s empty cage
Reggie's Revenge drink
Reggie’s Revenge drink
Reggie's Revenge in the menu
Reggie’s Revenge in the menu

Much of the menu itself is inside jokes taken straight from the Indiana Jones movies. In addition to some of the more overt things like the menu items themselves, there are a bunch of hidden gems in Jock’s notes on the edges of the menu pages, and a few others I’ll point out.

Loosely translated to: Mr. jock , Your friend is in a very dangerous and full of deceit way. The idol Chachapoyan awaits those who come through their ancient temple , but beware, the natives are welcoming and the French is worse
Loosely translated to:
Mr. jock ,
Your friend is in a very dangerous and full of deceit way. The idol Chachapoyan awaits those who come through their ancient temple , but beware, the natives are welcoming and the French is worse

This post card might raise some red flags for anyone who can read Spanish and who has seen the opening of the Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the movie, Indy is betrayed when he is looking for the idol and the Hovito tribe is loyal to the Frenchman Belloq, who is a longtime rival of Dr. Jones. I wonder if Jock got this in time and that’s why he was there to rescue Indy with his plane?

The allergy menu has the list of food items, many of which have direct ties to the movies
The allergy menu has the list of food items, many of which have direct ties to the movies

 

Good Dates refer to the bad ones eaten by the Nazi monkey in Cairo in Raiders. Air Pirates refers to the shirt in Jock’s plane in Raiders when he rescues Indy. Rolling Boulder Sliders refer to the opening of Raiders when Indy escapes the rolling boulder while trying to procure the idol. Snack of Ra refers to the Staff of Ra used the help find the Lost Ark. Tanis is the lost city where the Holy Grail is located in Last Crusade. Dr. Elsa Schneider is the Nazi who seduces Dr. Jones Jr. and Sr. in Last Crusade. Brody’s Brats refer to Marcus Brody who appears in both Raiders and Last Crusade. Lao Che’s Revenge is in reference to the owner of the Obi-Wan Night Club in Temple of Doom. Squid! Why’d it have to be Squid?! is a play on Indy’s same line replacing snakes with squid (probably at Reggie’s request).

 

This refers to when Indy and Short Round are stuck in the tunnels in the Pankot Palace in Temple of Doom
This refers to when Indy and Short Round are stuck in the tunnels in the Pankot Palace in Temple of Doom
Anything Goes signature drink and glass refer to Willie the night club singer at Club Obi Wan in Temple of Doom
Anything Goes signature drink and glass refer to Willie the night club singer at Club Obi Wan in Temple of Doom
Hovito Mojito is named after the tribe of natives chasing Indy at the beginning of Raiders
Hovito Mojito is named after the tribe of natives chasing Indy at the beginning of Raiders
Pretty sure the Bitter Barkeep is referencing Marion Ravenwood, but also good advice at the top of the page
Pretty sure the Bitter Barkeep is referencing Marion Ravenwood, but also good advice at the top of the page
German Mechanic bites the dust in Raiders by way of the plane propeller
German Mechanic bites the dust in Raiders by way of the plane propeller
The Scottish Professor is in honor of Dr. Henry Jones Sr. in Last Crusade
The Scottish Professor is in honor of Dr. Henry Jones Sr. in Last Crusade
Cool-Headed Monkey must taste better than the monkey brains they tried to serve in Temple of Doom
Cool-Headed Monkey must taste better than the monkey brains they tried to serve in Temple of Doom

Above the bar you can see Jock’s beloved New York Yankees hat hanging from a shelf. On another shelf you’ll see the voodoo dolls of Indy, Willie and Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Just below that is the lighter that Indy used in the Last Crusade movie where he was tied up with his dad in the castle with the Nazis.

Jock's Yankees hat he wears in Raiders
Jock’s Yankees hat he wears in Raiders
Voodoo dolls
Voodoo dolls
Indy's lighter
Indy’s lighter

The map behind the bar shows stamps and trails and Jock’s expeditions around the globe with and without Indy. For instance, you can see a depiction of the Shankara stones from the Temple of Doom movie seen near Nepal on the map.

Map of Jock's adventures
Map of Jock’s adventures
See the Shankara Stones from Temple of Doom?
See the Shankara Stones from Temple of Doom?

Beside the bar in the locked up lost and found cage are a few more nods to the movies. The headpiece from the Staff of Ra from Raiders of the Lost Ark is sitting near the bottom left. There are a slew of keys labeled for characters like Marcus Brody, Willie, etc. on the half empty key rack. I’d also like to think that one of the umbrellas in the stand is one that Henry Jones Sr. used to scare away the birds into the propellers of the Nazis trying to attack him and Indy in Last Crusade.

Lost and Found
Lost and Found
Headpiece from the Staff of Ra in Raiders
Headpiece from the Staff of Ra in Raiders

There are three posters in the bar representing the original trilogy of movies and some of their locations with one for Cairo in the loft above the main entry doors. There’s another one for Pankot Province around the corner to the left after you enter. The third is at the end of a bookcase marking the end of the fuselage of the plane on the left that has a poster of Iskenderun.

Cairo poster representing travel there in Raiders
Cairo poster representing travel there in Raiders
Pankot Province poster with the tagline "You'll Leave Your Heart In Beautiful Pankot" subtly referring the fact the Mola Ram will remove your heart
Pankot Province poster with the tagline “You’ll Leave Your Heart In Beautiful Pankot” subtly referring the fact the Mola Ram will remove your heart
Iskenderun poster with the headline "Choose Wisely Fly There" referring to the knight's advice to Indy to choose wisely when picking the Holy Grail in Last Crusade
Iskenderun poster with the headline “Choose Wisely Fly There” referring to the knight’s advice to Indy to choose wisely when picking the Holy Grail in Last Crusade

In addition to the Indiana Jones movies, there are a couple of other movies that get nods in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. One is the Iron Man on the loft above the bar. The other is a mention of R2-D2 from Star Wars and Captain Rex from Star Tours 1.0. Supposedly there’s another Star Wars reference that I missed, but I’ll have to go back again and search for that.

The Iron Man
The Iron Man
Star Wars references
Star Wars references

I’m sure there are many more movie tie ins, but I don’t want to spoil them all for you. It is fun to discover some on your own, plus the cast members are usually all too willing to share if they know some hidden secrets that the Imagineers have snuck in the decor. There are even things that reference the Jungle Cruise, Hall of Presidents, and the Adventurer’s Club, but I will let you find those yourself. Definitely make a trip for yourself to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs to check out this fantastically themed new addition.

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Party for the Senses at Epcot

Party for the Senses
Party for the Senses

Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival once again plays host to the Party for the Senses in World Showplace each Saturday night in October. This Grand Tasting Event is one of the most popular events of the entire festival and has been for years now. This past weekend was my first chance to experience this party first hand. The event is from 7:00 until 9:30pm and does require admission to Epcot in addition to the party ticket. It is a sensory experience, with the party focusing on smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound. From dozens of different food and beverage offerings to music and performances by Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba cast, your senses will certainly be stimulated by the Party for the Senses.

Some things to know before you go to the party that might be helpful: There are three types of tickets to this event. First is general admission, which runs $169. including alcohol for guests age 21 and up and taxes. This gives you access to the party starting at 7pm, but no seating guaranteed. There are high top tables, but not necessarily seats to go with them, so if you are going with this option, get here early so you can be first in line to get in. Guests were checking in around 5:30pm when we arrived, so be prepared to stand and wait for a couple hours before the party starts if you want to be first in line to get a table. The next option, which is what I’d recommend, is to get a reserved table for $199. per person. In addition to guaranteed seating, you also get early access at 6:45pm, and a cocktail to kick off the party. The third option is the Wine View Lounge, which is a separate section in the middle of the floor, right in front of the stage. These tickets are $319. each and include early access at 6:45pm and the special cocktail to start. Also included is a private reserved table, premium bar access, and an artisanal cheese station.

Waiting area before the Party
Waiting area before the Party
Stations set up in World ShowPlace
Stations set up in World ShowPlace
Reserved area for Wine View Lounge
Reserved area for Wine View Lounge
Menu and place setting
Menu and place setting

My guest and I were seated in a reserved section just adjacent to the main stage where we found it to be convenient to the stations spread out around the World ShowPlace building. We decided early on that we would attack this like we do Food and Wine kiosks where we pace ourselves and split all of the tastes between us. This allows us to enjoy more and not fill up since we are doing half of everything. We then went back for some favorites to get seconds since some were that amazing.

The party features prominent chefs from all over the country as well as Disney chefs from all over property to showcase individual tastes. Some were quite simple with just a taste of one or two items together, and others were magnificently constructed compilations of almost a dozen ingredients combined. If you get a chance to go, remember to pace yourself. This is a two and a half hour event and I didn’t see any of the dozens of stations run out of food or drink.

Pistachio macaron
Pistachio macaron
Chocolate display
Chocolate display
Chefs at their station ready to serve
Chefs at their station ready to serve
View of the floor
View of the floor

One thing that we found extremely helpful was the menu that we got that was color coded to the location on the floor, which made finding specific items you hadn’t tried yet easier to track down. We tried every main food item, missed one of the cheese stations, the dessert with pistachios was skipped since I’m allergic, and I think I skipped the chocolate station. Other than that, we tried everything in the way of food at least once. Since I was driving I limited my alcohol intake to the cocktail at the beginning, which was a nice dry white sparkling wine, and a fantastic strawberry-lime cider from Sweden. My guest on the other hand, took it upon herself to sample quite a few of the wines.

For those who have any food allergies, it is very important that you ask at each individual station if you have any concerns. I mentioned I avoided one of the desserts since it was labeled on the menu with pistachios, but I did find one other location that didn’t list them as an ingredient, but I saw green nuts and figured I’d ask. I was glad I did because they were able to make me the dish without the pistachios and it ended up being one of my favorites of the night.

We grazed through the night sampling dozens of great food items and eventually musicians from Cirque du Soleil took to the stage to sing and perform selections from La Nouba. Later into the evening some of the clowns and other performers mingled on the floor interacting with guests. Towards the end of the night, about six or so of the La Nouba gymnasts and acrobats joined the clowns on stage to replace the musicians. They put on parts of the show, if you’ve ever seen La Nouba or commercials for it, the section with the trampoline and gymnasts going into the house facade with windows, bouncing in and around them and up to the roof. It is quite amazing to see them perform this inside the smaller height of the World ShowPlace building compared to their auditorium at Disney Springs.

Cirque du Soleil musicians
Cirque du Soleil musicians
Cirque du Soleil gymnasts
Cirque du Soleil gymnasts
Clowns bouncing around
Clowns bouncing around
I liked how they also had screens all around the room so you could see the stage no matter where you were seated
I liked how they also had screens all around the room so you could see the stage no matter where you were seated

Once we had completed the list of all the bites we wanted to try, we went back for a few of our favorites before heading out. The party allows you to take home your wine glass, which is the 20th Anniversary edition for the Food and Wine festival. We felt completely full, but not overstuffed with the many appetizers we had tried. Some of our favorites were the Lobster Lo Maine, the roasted cauliflower, the bison, and the lamb with roasted potatoes.

Lobster Lo Maine
Lobster Lo Maine
Roasted cauliflower
Roasted cauliflower
Bison
Bison
Roasted lamb and potatoes
Roasted lamb and potatoes

Overall it was a fantastic evening of friends, food, fun, entertainment, and trying new things. I am not particularly a fan of lamb or cauliflower, but these ended up being two of my favorite dishes of the entire night. I got to try a sip of the Chewtini that is being offered at the Food and Wine kiosks to celebrate the show the Chew. The music was great, and I didn’t get too scared of the clowns since I knew what to expect having seen La Nouba before.

This is a fantastic way to spend an evening with friends or family enjoying sips and bites from different restaurants all over the country and even world. We even timed our exit just right to come out a few minutes before Illuminations started, and if you come early, you also get the chance to see the Eat to the Beat Concert. I highly suggest that you try to book this soon if it isn’t already sold out, and if it is, add it to your calendar of must dos for next year. The Party for the Senses is a great way to experience Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival in a unique way where you can sit in air conditioning, and enjoy many different offerings for food and beverages while being entertained by the Cirque du Soleil cast.

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French Family Meal Traditions Lunch

French Family Meal Traditions
Monsieur Paul

New this year to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is the French Family Meal Traditions Special Event. This lunch is hosted by Eric Weistroffer, manager of the French Pavilion at Epcot, and takes place in the restaurant Monsieur Paul. This premium event is a nice leisurely lunch that lasts from about noon until 3:30pm. The five course meal is accompanied by Eric describing how the meal correlates to the French Family Meal Traditions. I had the opportunity to experience this incredible French meal on the day it started and I highly recommend that you book this special event if you can.

The meal started with an aperitif cocktail and cheese sticks. We were also presented with fresh baked bread and butter which helped to cleanse the palate between courses. The cheese sticks were twists of cheese baked over bread and were crispy on the outside, but nice and soft on the inside. The cocktail we began with was called Cocktail La Presse and was made from Grand Marnier Titanium, lemon juice, simple syrup, raspberries and sparkling wine. It was a light and refreshing drink to start the meal with and just had hints of the orange, lemon and raspberry together.

Cocktail La Presse
Cocktail La Presse
Allumette au fromage
Allumette au fromage

For the traditional French Hors d’Oeurve we sampled a Traditional Quiche Lorraine and a side salad. The quiche was so light and flaky on the outside and inside the eggs, cheese and ham were so perfectly cooked. I am not usually a fan of quiche, but this was simply delightful. The salad was a nice complement to the quiche with a nice vinaigrette dressing. This course was paired with a French Vouvray wine, which was clean and crisp and matched the food amazingly.

Quiche Lorraine
Quiche Lorraine
Side Salad
Side Salad
Inside the quiche
Inside the quiche
Vouvray
Vouvray

The main course, or Plat de resistance, was a phenomenal white veal ragout served with rice, carrots, mushrooms and baby onions. I do not care for veal, but I tried it for the sake of being adventurous. This course was my favorite and I was pleasantly surprised. The white wine in the ragout was a nice balance to the vegetables. I especially enjoyed dipping my bread in the sauce along with the mushrooms and rice. What would appear to be a very heavy course was beautifully balanced. With this course, they served a red Chinon wine, which I found a little Earthy for my taste, but paired well with the entree.

White veal ragout
White veal ragout
Ragout with rice
Ragout with rice

One of the things I enjoyed most about this meal, aside from the food of course, was that it was a nice slow pace. We had time to talk with the other guests at our table and it felt much like you were sitting around a family table sharing a meal. At one point, Eric even slowed down the servers because he felt that we needed a bit more time in between courses to enjoy the conversation and to digest. This was perfect because I never felt over satiated during the meal, just sated. It was a fantastic to embrace the French way of enjoying a meal and to slow down and appreciate the surroundings.

Eric explaining how nice it is to slow down
Eric explaining how nice it is to slow down

The cheese course was next, with a nice Brie, walnuts, grapes, and more freshly baked bread. The Bordeaux that was paired with this course was very nice and a bit more fruity and full bodied than what I traditionally expect from most Bordeaux.

Cheese plate
Cheese plate

Dessert was a presentation to be seen and tasted just a fabulous as it looked. The light almond macaron, with bitter chocolate mousse, vanilla and chocolate sauces, and hazelnut ice cream was awesome! The sparkling white wine served with it was a JCB  21, and was a slightly dry wine, which I really liked. The dessert macaron was flaky and soft, not the more dense and hard macaron that I am used to, but it was very good. It was a bit rich, but the flavors melded together so well.

Almond macaron
Almond macaron
Inside the macaron
Inside the macaron
Sparkling wine
Sparkling wine

All in all this was a fantastic French meal between the fantastic setting with the view of World Showcase Lagoon below, to the impeccable service, wonderful food with wine pairings, and the great conversations with new friends. The lunch is still available for booking over the next few weeks of the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. The French Family Meal Traditions special event takes place on Friday and Sunday afternoons from now until November 15th, 2015. The cost is $95 plus tax per person including alcohol for those 21 and up. I will say when I first saw the price I was a bit skeptical, but having been now, I would have easily paid almost double that at many restaurants. The alcohol cost alone makes up more than half to two thirds of the cost if you were purchasing the drinks separately. For a five course meal with drinks included, this is really a good value for all that you are getting.

Monsieur Paul lobby
Monsieur Paul lobby
Place setting
Place setting
Monsieur Paul dining room
Monsieur Paul dining room
View of World Showcase Lagoon
View of World Showcase Lagoon

If you have a few hours available to enjoy this or one of several of the other premium special events during Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, I recommend that you book sooner rather than later as many of these events are filling up as word gets out as to how great they are. As of the time of writing this, there are still spots available for the French Family Meal Traditions as well as special events in Mexico, Italy, and Morocco. Please call 407-939-3378 for more information or availability and pricing.

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Jungle Cruise Breakfast at Disneyland

Recently Disneyland announced they’d be adding a new meal experience at the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. This Jungle Cruise breakfast goes for $300. per guest (including tax and gratuity) and also includes the chance to helm one of the Jungle Cruise boats while reciting skippers’ lines. Also, as a souvenir, guests will receive a tiki mask reminiscent of those seen on the ride. The Jungle Cruise Sunrise Safari Breakfast will be served in the African section of the attraction, and will take place on select days between September 21 and December 2, 2015.

This got me thinking, what if we had this here at Walt Disney World, but not in the Jungle Cruise? Where would I like to have the meal, and what themed souvenir would I pair with it?

In the Magic Kingdom, I’d like a dinner in the Carousel of Progress Christmas scene. I know this may not be particularly original since there’s already a dining room table and kitchen there, but I think it would be fun. As a take home souvenir, I’d like one of the Mickey Mouse nutcrackers from the mantle of the living room.

Carousel of Progress
Carousel of Progress

At Epcot I think I’d most enjoy a meal in the Living with the Land attraction. I’d want to set up right near the pretty little waterfall just across the water so I could enjoy the view while having a meal featuring foods from the Land. I think it would be cool to get a ceramic replica of the Mickey pumpkins they grow, along with the plastic mold and pumpkin seeds.

Living with the Land
Living with the Land

Disney’s Hollywood Studios presents a bit more of a challenge. I’ve both been to dinners in attractions and known friends who have been to meals in others. I would love to eat in the Great Movie Ride, but I know that’s a real thing, so I don’t want to cop out. I will go with one of the best themed Disney attractions anywhere, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I think it would be amazing to have an outdoor meal on the terrace part of the extended outdoor queue, or in the ballroom that we don’t see other than the door as you exit the ride into the gift shop. For a souvenir from the Hollywood Tower Hotel, I’d love a plate setting maybe minus the silverware.

Hollywood Tower Hotel
Hollywood Tower Hotel

Even though it is open to the elements, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I would select a nice alfresco meal in the Maharajah Jungle Trek between the tiger enclosures. Like one of my favorite restaurants, Sanaa, this would offer a fantastic view of the animals. I believe a replica of one of the beautiful bird cages along the trek would make a great souvenir. There’s a bright red and gold one I’d particularly fancy.

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Maharajah Jungle Trek

If you were to choose to have a meal in a Walt Disney World attraction, other than the Jungle Cruise since we are getting the new Skipper Canteen later this year, what would you pick? What would your souvenir be? Are you doing the meal in Disneyland? If so, please let us know.

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Fall 2015 Round Table

Even though the official start of fall is still a couple of weeks off, here in Orlando it is definitely in full swing.
Fall decorations have made it to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is only days away. Previews have started for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, while Halloween Spooktacular is only a few weeks away at SeaWorld. Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND Florida starts the first weekend in October. Howl-O-Scream kicks off at Busch Gardens on September 25th. With all these awesome events just around the corner we thought we’d share some of our fall favorites.
What are you most looking forward to about fall outside the parks?
Betsy – This was a tough one for me between pumpkin flavored everything, cooler weather, but ultimately, football wins out. I love college football season and enjoy playing in a Fantasy league for NFL, so it brings that extra competitive edge to the fall.
fall
Cole in a Corn Maze last year
Jillian – I love all the smaller fall festivals the different towns hold, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay rides! I love fall!
Shelley – Watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and carving pumpkins with Dave & Zoe.
Dave and Zoe Carving a Pumpkin Fall
Zoe and Dave Carving a Pumpkin
Dana – Pumpkin yogurt at Menchies
Jacqui – I’m ridiculously excited about dining at Morimoto Asia in Downtown Disney! A huge fan of Iron Chef ( and all cooking shows) I can’t wait to experience another new culinary gem at Walt Disney World.
Kelly – Cooler weather!
Gail – What I’m most looking forward to about fall outside the parks is not only the cooler weather and layers, but the food and the sense of family. The tasty fall drinks at Starbucks, the many yummy pies, the feeling of families starting to plan to get together for thanksgiving time. Once it gets cooler I enjoy going outdoors more and seeing the change of colors to the landscapes.
Cheryl – Looking forward to farmer’s markets

 

What is your favorite thing about fall in the parks?
Betsy – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is my favorite special event at Walt Disney World, so I always look forward to it. This year I hope to check out Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND for the first time, and get to Spooktacular at SeaWorld again.
Jillian – The decorations all over the Magic Kingdom, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular.
Shelley – The decorations at the Magic Kingdom! I love seeing all the pumpkins!
Dana – The decorations!
Jacqui – The thing I love most about Fall in the parks is EVERYTHING….lower crowds, cooler weather, a decked out seasonal display at MK….and of course, my fave at EP, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!
Kelly – I love the decorations in the Magic Kingdom, especially the themed jack-o-lanterns on Main Street.
Gail – My favorite part of fall in the parks is the decor! Disney magically transforms to leaves and pumpkins and orange all around! Universal Studios has Halloween Horror Nights which is my favorite! Then all the local haunted houses are so fun to find. Not forgetting the pirate house at Celebration that he decorates every year, it’s truly a sight to see AND hear!
Cheryl – I love the Fort and the Halloween decorations

 

What are you planning on dressing up as for Halloween or what was a favorite past costume that you wore at any point in your life?
Betsy – I will probably not dress up this year because I find it still a bit warm, but I can usually be counted on to wear a fun t-shirt. My favorite costume growing up was probably when I was a Smurf when I was about four. I’m short and blue is my favorite color, so it works.
 Smurf Betsy Fall
Smurf Betsy looks Smurfy
Jillian – Haven’t decided what we’re doing for costumes this year. Past favorites have included Snow White, and Kaylee from Firefly (and Serenity).
Shelley – You’ll just have to wait for this year’s costume!!!
Dana – My favorite past costume was Dr. Facilier, a female version.
Jacqui – I’m still deciding on a possible costume for this year, but my fave costume was Snow White. My toddler and I both dressed as her and the memories of that day are nothing short of magical.
Kelly – Not planning on it this year, but if I was I would probably be Sadness or Disgust from Inside Out. In the past, a group of friends and I dressed as Wizard of Oz characters. I was Scarecrow.
Gail – I don’t tend to dress up much for Halloween, just accessorize but my favorite outfit is my pumpkin outfit, it’s so silly but I love it!
Pumpkin Gail Fall
Pumpkin Gail
Cheryl – I have no idea.

 

What is your favorite fall food or drink?
Betsy – Almost anything pumpkin flavored, especially my beloved Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. I also really enjoy a nice glass of apple cider with a hint of cloves and cinnamon either hot or cold.
Jillian – homemade pumpkin pie & hot apple cider
Shelley – My favorite fall food is the Halloween Sugar Cookies that Zoe and I make every year at SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular.
Halloween Sugar Cookie SeaWorld Orlando Fall
Can you see the cookie underneath all that candy???
Dana – Hot apple cider
Jacqui – Fave Fall food in general is roasted squash! Caramel Apples are a close second.
Kelly – I love the pumpkin waffle that they have at Sleepy Hollow during MNSSHP. And I never turn down apple cider.
Gail – My favorite fall food is the pies, sweet potato or pumpkin pie, I love how much pumpkin flavored stuff they do! My favorite drinks are the spiced ones, so pumpkin spice or apple spice, they really taste like fall to me!
Cheryl – Mashed potatoes

 

What is the movie you are most looking forward to seeing in theaters between now and the end of the year?
Betsy – My heart is completely torn in half on this one. Two of my greatest loves in Star Wars and James Bond, also two of the best film franchises in history, are both releasing films between November and December. SPECTRE looks like it is going to be amazing, but The Force Awakens will probably win the year’s box office if it is half as good as the previews look, plus BB-8!
Jillian – Star Wars: The Force Awakens!
Shelley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens! It will be Zoe’s first Star Wars movie on the ‘Big Screen’!!!
Dana – Star Wars, of course!
Jacqui – Love Bill Murray and love The Jungle Book, so I can’t wait for this one in October.
Kelly – Other than the obvious, Star Wars, I’m looking forward to seeing The Martian.
Gail – A movie I’m looking forward to is Ant Man, I know it’s terrible I haven’t seen it already! I am almost out of time but hoping to catch it, it looks fun!
Cheryl – The Force Awakens
Snow White Jillian
Snow White Jillian
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D23 Expo Costume Gallery

This year I had the opportunity to attend the D23 Expo in Anaheim for the first time. Did I wear a costume? No, but I did get complimented on my awesome and unique tshirts each day (one Bing Bong, one Black Widow, and one Agent Carter). One of my favorite things I experienced during the convention was actually checking out costume and people watching. The cosplay and Disney bounding was amazing! Here are a few of my favorites from the three days I attended. Some people were in a hurry and a bit reluctant to pose, so I apologize some costume angles are from the side or behind.

Alice costume
Alice and Mad Hatter and Cinderella and Ariel
Belle and Elsa
Belle and Elsa
Captain EOs
Captain EOs
Elsa and Hans
Elsa and Hans
Elsa
Elsa
Haunted Mansion Stretching Room Lady
Haunted Mansion Stretching Room Lady
Hercules and Megara
Hercules and Megara
Jungle Cruise Skipper with boat and passenger!
Jungle Cruise Skipper with boat and passenger!
King Stefan and Queen Leah
King Stefan and Queen Leah
Lava
Lava
Maleficent
Maleficent
Princes and Princesses
Princes and Princesses
Quasimodo
Quasimodo
Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts
Rainbow Unicorn
Rainbow Unicorn
Robin Hood
Robin Hood
Sally and Zero
Sally and Zero
Sgt. Calhoun
Sgt. Calhoun
Storm Trooper and Darth Vader
Storm Trooper and Darth Vader
Summer Elsa and Anna
Summer Elsa and Anna

 

Which costume was your favorite? I can’t choose just one, but the Lava volcano costume together was one of mine. I also give major props to the dude who wore the Jungle Cruise Skipper costume complete with working microphone on his boat and a passenger. The Robin Hood costume is pretty awesome too. Let me know in the comments which costume you’d choose to wear.

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Disney Resort Labor Day Weekend Activities

Disney's Contemporary ResortIf you happen to be on vacation or a staycation at a Walt Disney World Resort for the holiday weekend like I am, I thought I’d share some special events going on at select resorts across property.

At Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, they are hosting the 104 Days of Summer Vacation: End of Summer Beach Party Bash! this Saturday, September 5th from 5:00 – 7:30pm. It will take place on the Martinique Beach (subject to weather). The recreation calendar says, “Join us on Martinique Beach for competitions, relays, crafts, marshmallow roasting, and a special drawing to win a free admission for Kid’s Night In: Pirate Adventure!”

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is having a Labor Day Beach Party on Monday, September 7th from 5:30 – 10:00pm. It will be on the beach at the resort and will have fun games, crafts, prizes, and more!

Later this month, on Monday, September 21st, the Contemporary will have a similar party for resort guests to celebrate the end of summer. It will also take place on the main beach from 5:30 – 10:00pm.

This Sunday, September 6th, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside is throwing a Riverside Fair! The party will center around the main theme pool at Ol’ Man Island from 11:30am – 5:00pm. The resort will celebrate Labor Day with games, music and more, with a barbecue (additional cost for food). After the pool party, the fun continues at the marina with arts and crafts, games, live entertainment, and a character meet and greet. There will also be specialty food and drinks available for purchase at the resort.

Today, Friday, September 4th, and tomorrow, Saturday, September 5th, Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort will be having an extended campfire on the beach. They will feature unlimited s’mores, games, crafts, and face painting for resort guests from 6:30 – 8:30pm both nights.

 

If you get a chance, and are staying at one of these resorts, definitely check out some of these fun extra recreation activities being offered. Have a great and safe holiday weekend!

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Blue Jasper Restaurant Review

Blue Jasper exterior
Blue Jasper exterior

Last week I discovered a new breakfast and lunch restaurant, Blue Jasper, quite by accident. My mom and I were out running errands and were hungry for breakfast, but not in the mood for our usual breakfast place or any chains. I took to Yelp and stumbled upon a new place I’d never heard of that had only been open a few months.

I pulled up the reviews for Blue Jasper, which numbered almost twenty and average 4.5/5. I looked at the menu and found an article from the local paper from April when Blue Jasper opened. It talked about how they wanted to use local produce and resources as much as possible, and ran through the impressive resume of the owner/chef. My mom and I were sold.

Showing up only minutes later, we weren’t disappointed. Being mid morning in the middle of the week, it was relatively quiet with only four or five of the twenty or so tables being occupied. The server, Hillary was very friendly, attentive, but not overly so, and was knowledgeable.

After taking a long time to peruse the Blue Jasper breakfast menu, and decide we were coming back for lunch later in the week, we placed our orders. We decided to order a few different things to try and share.

First, we started with the lox and three herb cream cheese on a bagel with tomato. We opted for no onions and the capers on the side. The lox was perfectly sliced and nice and thin with a nice smoked salmon flavor. This was complemented very well with the herb cream cheese.

French Toast
Bagel and lox
Bagel and lox
Corned beef hash
Corned beef hash
Blue Jasper interior
Blue Jasper interior

To balance out the savory bagel and lox, we decided to order the crunchy fruit compote French toast brioche with the whipped cream on the side. We both agreed that this was quite probably the best French toast we’d ever had. It didn’t need butter, we used a touch of syrup, and I used a little of the whipped cream, but the berry compote was perfect served cold over the warm French toast. I am assuming the crunch came from cereal or oatmeal on the brioche toast added after an egg wash.

I also chose to give a side of corned beef hash a try. Now, I am very particular about my hash. I do not like salty things, and oddly enough, corned beef is very salty by nature. So I don’t ever want salt added, and I’m not a fan of peppers in my corned beef hash, which a lot of places like to try to sneak in for some reason. This corned beef hash at Blue Jasper again was possibly the best I’ve ever had. It was perfectly seasoned, not salty at all, but still flavorful. I felt a little bad trying some with a dab of ketchup like I usually do.

The food was all fantastic with great flavor and nice presentation. As promised, we returned to Blue Jasper for lunch over the weekend and were not disappointed! We had the duck confit sliders, and their extraordinary grilled cheese. The sliders are served on sour dough bread with brie, arugula, sweet orange rinds, and bacon aioli. Served with tomato bisque, the grilled cheese has smoked bacon, apple butter, grilled apple slices, and smoked cheddar on brioche. Neither made it home for leftovers, but we did have some extra of the yummy sweet potato fries that made a great snack later.

Duck confit sliders
Duck confit sliders
Grilled cheese and tomato bisque
Grilled cheese and tomato bisque
Tables
Tables
Blue Jasper
Blue Jasper

All in all this is a great new spot, and I’m so glad we found it. We will now be adding it into our regular rotation of restaurants. They are open Tuesday through Sunday 7am – 3pm, and also offer catering. There are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, as well as vegan/gluten free options. If you are in the Sarasota or Bradenton area any time soon, make sure to hit up Blue Jasper for either breakfast or lunch.

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Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disneyland 

Having just come back from Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d reflect on some of my favorites. I put together this list of my Top 10 Rides and Attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Some of these are sentimental favorites, others are great thrill rides, but I love them all for different reasons. For listing purposes, I have split up the list into two parts, one for traditional rides, and the other into attractions/shows/entertainment. I’m sure many will disagree, but hopefully I’ve got some of your favorites here, or maybe you’ll come to appreciate a new attraction from my lists.

 

RIDES

10. Indiana Jones Adventure – The theming of the thrilling dark ride is spot on. The queue is amazing and the story is great.

9. Casey Jr. Circus Train – I love the simplicity of this, which is one of two Dumbo rides, and how you get a great view of the canal boats and Matterhorn.

rides

8. Storybook Land Canal Boats – Rides are always better when they’re on a boat. This slow moving trip through Monstro and around the houses and castles of many of our favorite characters is most beautiful at dusk with the twinkle lights.

7. Mr Toad’s Wild Ride – I think I move this up on the list a bit since we used to have it here in Florida, but don’t anymore. I used to love to ride it as a kid and now get to ride it again as an adult.

6. Disneyland Railroad – I love that there are different styles of seating and scenes to see while riding the train all around the park.

Matterhorn5. Matterhorn Bobsleds – Although this can be one of the roughest Disney rollercoasters or rides overall, I love the new upgrades to Harold. To me, this is the icon of Disneyland. It was the first thing I saw from almost a mile away on my first trip, and a trip is not complete without Matterhorn Macaroons from Jolly Holiday Bakery.

4. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – This is one of those rides that is just dadgum fun! It is one of my must rides every trip and is the ride I tend to see the most smiles on across the board in either of the two parks. Plus it has an awesome soundtrack.

3. Radiator Springs Racers – Another must do for every trip. This one I prefer at dusk or at Racersnight. It is an amazing combination of a racing ride and a classic dark ride, with some competition thrown in for good measure. I’d love if they made a ride of similar nature in Walt Disney World.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean – A classic. That smell. Those drops. The fireflies. The song. Despite the fact I get soaked every single time, I adore this ride and love that Walt got to work on it.

1. Alice In Wonderland – If I don’t get to ride any other rides at Disneyland other than this, it will still be a great day. I think I built an emotional and sentimental attachment to this ride since my first trip. I did no research before I came to Disneyland, but had seen things and was aware of a picture I had seen of Walt riding back in the 1950s. I don’t really even like the movie, but I absolutely adore and cherish this ride. The updates were handled with care and I think mirror the spirit of the original attraction.

Alice

Honorable mention: Haunted Mansion Holiday – This is a fantastic overlay with The Nightmare Before Christmas taking over the Haunted Mansion for the last few months of the year. I could ride this over and over with the holiday version.

 

SHOWS/ATTRACTIONS

10. Fantasmic – The Disneyland version is far superior to the one at Hollywood Studios, in my opinion. Between the dragon and the use of the Mark Twain and Columbia, it is an awesome improvement.

9. Aladdin – I enjoy the Genie’s up to the minute changes on his jokes in this Broadway style show. Flying carpet is pretty sweet too.

8. Animation Academy – This is not just an awesome place to cool off on warm days, but now the only place on either coast where guests can learn to draw classic Disney characters for free.

7. Red Car News Boys – Part of my appreciation for this live act comes from my enjoyment of Newsies. Another is my love of the Red Car Trolley itself and Buena Vista Street in general. But much of it is attributed to the addictive earworm that is A Suitcase and a Dream.

6. Five and Dime – Yet another fun live musical group that performs outside Carthay Circle in DCA. I love their fun take on classic songs.

5. Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln – A classic attraction that combines parts from the Hall of Presidents and the American Adventure, but focuses on the 16th President and his life.

4. Enchanted Tiki Room – One of Walt’s attractions that still lives on today. The outside waiting area is so charming and beautiful at night, plus you can get dole whips quicker on the inside line usually, and the attraction has its own bathroom.

3. Mickey and the Magical Map – This show is one of my new favorites. I really enjoy the combination of projections and live performers from some of my favorite musical moments in Disney movies.

2. Disneyland Forever – I love these fireworks, but it was mostly in conjunction with the projections on Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle, and the Matterhorn that made this amazing. I go back and forth between preferring this or Paint the Night, but they’re both amazing. I can’t wait to watch it again by It’s A Small World.

1. Paint The Night – I am not a huge parade person usually, but this one blew me away. I stood watching this with my jaw dropped and a stupid grin on my face. The technology is incredible and the music is great.

PaintMackDonaldMickeyVortex

Honorable mention: World of Color – The original version was my everything. I would watch it every night if I could. I am still astonished and appreciate the technology behind it, and I like the parts of the Celebrate show with Walt. I miss the other incarnation, but like the new one over Winter Dreams.

 

These are just my opinions at this moment in time, and I will admit, my own Top 10 rides list shifts around based on my mood. But as the wind blows right now, these are where they stand. Did I hit any of your favorite rides? Do you have a completely different Top 10? Leave me a note in the comments with your thoughts.

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