Pick Six: Universal Orlando Naughty & Nice Holiday

I always enjoy the holiday events at Universal Orlando. The celebration takes place in both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure with a lot to see and do. This year I was able to take my nephew for his first time to take part in the festivities. Here are six highlights from that day and my previous visits over the past few of years.

 

1. Grinchmas – Islands of Adventure

Universal  Grinch

MeanOne  Finale

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories so seeing it brought to life on stage is so fun! The music is great and the Grinch is always fantastic. There are even a few surprises thrown in! The show runs several times a day. There aren’t any bad seats, but in my experience I like sitting on the right side of the stage for a good view of one of those surprises I mentioned.

2. Suess Landing – Islands of Adventure

SeussLanding LittleTree WelcomeChristmas

Garland Lorax

To get to Grinchmas, you must pass through Seuss Landing. This is the most decorated parts of the park with trees and garland everywhere! I love all the whimsical touches. There are even signs with lyrics to “Welcome Christmas.”

3. Macy’s Holiday Parade – Universal Studios

ParadeBanner Minions Hippo

CandyCane Santa SantaLights

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a must-watch for me every Thanksgiving morning for as long as I can remember. One year in college I was lucky enough to be able to visit New York and see it in person. I may not be able to visit New York each year, but I can get a little taste when some of the balloons and floats travel down for the parade here. It even features Santa Claus, who will light the Christmas tree set up in front of the Macy’s façade. How can you not smile while giant balloons float by? Some of them might even dance for you! One year I hope to be able to be one of the balloon handlers!

4. Giant Balloons – Universal Studios

Elf Grover Garfield

Cat George

Speaking of balloons, some of the larger ones from the New York parade are set up around the park. It’s fun going around and taking pictures with them. Garfield and The Cat in the Hat are my favorites!

5. Mannheim Steamroller Concerts – Universal Studios

FullStage Mannheim BlueStage

Mannheim Steamroller performs on Saturday and Sunday nights during the holidays. I’ve always enjoyed their Christmas music so it’s a treat to hear them live, especially “Carol of the Bells.” The concert does take a lot from the Grinchmas show, providing almost a recap with actors from the show. So it can get a little repetitive if you had watched that show earlier in the day. The music is still great though!

6. Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Island of Adventure

Snowman BerryWreath Wreath

I’m putting this one last because not much changes here from a normal day that’s not during the holiday season. But I had to include it because the snow covered roofs and snowman seem so much more festive and fitting when there are wreaths on the doors!  I’ve also heard the Frog Choir sing a few Christmas songs.

 

Have you been to Universal Orlando during their holiday celebration? What are you favorite things to see and do? It’s definitely become a tradition to go each year to take part in the festivities!

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runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Meet-Up

On Thursday, November 7, runDisney held their first nighttime meet-up leading into the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. Previously, meet-ups had always been held on weekday morning and I wouldn’t have been able to attend due to work. As soon as I saw that this one would be held at night, I jumped at the chance to sign up. Luckily, I got my email in quick enough and I made the list of 125 attendees!

 

Check-in began at 7:00, but the meet-up didn’t officially start until 8:30 where we were to be in place at Mexico Vista for Illuminations. I got there around 7:30 and received my admission ticket, a runDisney shirt made specifically for the meet-up that we were asked to change into, and a fastpass for Test Track to be used that night. With some free time on my hands, I wandered around World Showcase for a bit.

 

Soon it was time for the first part of the evening – Illuminations! This is my favorite nighttime show at Walt Disney World so I was especially excited to have a prime viewing spot.

Illuminations

After waiting for some of the park crowd to thin out, we made our way over to the America Gardens Theatre. There were a couple food stations set out, one with the Trick’n Chick’n Curry from the Terra booth at the Food and Wine Festival. I hadn’t had the chance to try that yet so I was happy to have that opportunity and ended up really liking it! They also had samplings of chardonnay from The Vegan Vine. I can honestly say that I had no idea that there was vegan wine. It was really good too!

 

Chef Mickey was also available during this time for pictures. I also took the opportunity to meet Jeff Galloway, whose run-walk-run method I follow. He was so nice and was genuinely happy to hear from everyone about how they were doing in their training.

Chef Mickey Jeff Galloway

Soon it was time to hear from a few speakers. First up, sports media director Darrell Fry and Faron Kelley, Director of Marketing and Communications for Disney Sports, came up to give out some prizes. I was really hoping to win one of the certificates for a future runDisney race entry! Next up was Jeff Galloway and nutritionist Tara Gidus. They spoke about how great runDisney has been in making running accessible to so many people. I, for one, probably would not be running if it wasn’t for volunteering for one of their races and seeing how fun it could be. Tara also gave some advice on fueling up for a night race.

Giveaways
Giveaway time!

We also heard from a couple of Epcot chefs who told us about foods that might be good for us to try during the party after finishing the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. One excellent suggestion was the salmon from the Scotland booth. My friends and I definitely enjoyed that one after the race!

chefs

Representatives from New Balance spoke a bit about the shoes that were designed for runDisney. They have been wildly popular with long lines to purchase at the race expos. They let us know that the current versions would only be available through Wine and Dine Weekend and the 2014 design would be available at Marathon Weekend in January. Sneak peeks will be coming so keep an eye out on Twitter! Other new merchandise next year will include race specific shoe inserts and lace charms. We got to see the race inserts and they looked great!

NewBalance
Ali from New Balance shows off the new shoe inserts. Photo courtesy of runDisney

Next up – time to run! There were two running groups: one for straight running and one for run-walk-run. I went with the latter and off we went through an empty World Showcase. The torches and countries had remained lit after Illuminations, which was pretty cool. We ran one and a half times around the lagoon, ending up by the Fountain of Nations for some group photos.

runDisney Group Shot
Photo courtesy of runDisney

After photos, we headed to the front of the park for a toast. The meet ended around midnight and was a great start to a fun Wine and Dine Weekend! If you ever have the chance to attend a runDisney meet-up, I would definitely recommend it!

Cheers
A toast under Spaceship Earth
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