This year Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on Earth Day, April 22, with more wild adventures than ever before as they prepare for an incredible summer filled with all-new events and experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Commemorating the milestone year, the 500-acre adventure park will offer animal encounters, family-friendly activities, specialty desserts and more during an expanded Party for the Planet celebration from April 22-May 5, 2018.
Over the two-week “Party for the Planet celebration, guests can attend conservation talks by animal-care experts and participate in enhanced interactions with some of the more than 2,000 animals that make their home at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited park.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch will take center stage for the year-long 20th anniversary. It’s home to fun educational exhibits and activities that help create awareness of animal issues. During the 20th anniversary, Rafiki’s Planet Watch will offer backstage experiences with experts where guests can learn about animal nutrition, visit the veterinary hospital and hear how Disney promotes global wildlife conservation.
Guests can also commemorate their visits to the theme park with special photo opportunities. They can step into an oversized picture frame celebrating the park’s 20th anniversary. Other photo frames support Disney’s “Reverse the Decline,” an initiative created to help protect 10 threatened animal species. One recent success of the program was the birth of two critically endangered Sumatran Tiger Cubs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Just for kids is the chance to earn a limited-edition badge as part of the Wilderness Explorer program. The badge is one of many that youngsters can earn by completing fun activities throughout the park.
Party for the Planet will also include six different Tiffins Talks – themed dinners hosted by animal experts at Tiffins, the theme park’s signature, full-service restaurant. Watch the Disney Parks Blog for more information.
The 20th anniversary fun also includes a commemorative adventure guide, limited-edition merchandise, and a special-edition print created by renowned Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde.
He will be available on April 22 from 1-4 p.m. to sign prints at Discovery Trading Company. Quantities are limited. For more information on Party for the Planet, visit disneyworld.com/PartyforthePlanet.
Here are other experiences and adventures rolling out in 2018 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
April 22 will mark the debut of a brand-new show, UP! A Great Bird Adventure featuring Russell and Dug from the Disney•Pixar animated comedy-adventure film “UP.” The show will give guests the chance to see Senior Wilderness Explorer Russell and his fuzzy friend Dug in a new adventure that includes encounters with exotic birds from around the world. This free-flying show will be performed multiple times daily.
A “dino-tastic” celebration with Donald and his friends will also premiere Memorial Day weekend in DinoLand, U.S.A. This dinosaur-themed party celebrates Donald Duck’s discovery that his bird ancestors were actually dinosaurs. DinoLand U.S.A. will feature colorful new décor and playful character greetings with rarely seen pals like Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack and more. A DJ-powered dance party will mix tunes from the truck-o-saurus stage, capping the nighttime festivities.
Memorial Day 2018 commemorates the one-year anniversary of Pandora – The World of Avatar. Here, travelers are transported to a mystical world of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and breathtaking new experiences. Inspired by the blockbuster film, AVATAR, the epic land invites guests to explore a glowing landscape, encounter a larger-than-life Na’vi Shaman of Songs and soar on the back of a banshee.
If you missed it, earlier today on Good Morning America the Walt Disney World Resort Announced that the much awaited Toy Story Land will open on June 30, 2018 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
In preparation for the opening, let’s look at what we know about the expansion!
When guests enter Toy Story Land they will ‘shrink’ down to the size of a toy so they can step into the whimsical and beloved world of PIXAR Animation Studios’ blockbuster franchise set in Andy’s backyard.
Looking around the highly intricate and themed land, guests will notice that all of the buildings are built from other toys and boxes with familiar faces from the Toy Story Franchise.
Once inside of Toy Story Land, guests will find that there are two new attractions that have been developed just for this new area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as a fan-favorite that has a few new touches.
Slinky Dog Dash
Slinky Dog Dash is a family coaster themed as if Andy built it in his backyard using his Mega Coaster Play Kit and some of his other favorite toys.
The attraction’s ride vehicles, inspired by the character of Slinky in the film, will send riders dipping, dodging and dashing around turns and drops Andy has created to stretch Slinky’s coils to the max.
Alien Swirling Saucers
Alien Swirling Saucers, is designed as a toy play set that Andy got from Pizza Planet, inspired by the first “Toy Story” film.
In the attraction guests will step into a flying saucer that will rotate around the toy planets and satellites as part of the game while swirling to the beat of fun “Space Jazz” music and lighting developed just for this experiencewhile “The Claw” looms ominously overhead.
Toy Story Mania
Toy Story Mania is an absolute fan-favorite at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and if you haven’t been lucky enough to score a FastPass+ it is worth the wait!
On the attraction guests step inside of Andy’s room which is littered with classic toys and fun details to board an early-20th-century-inspired Carnival Ride Tram donning 3D glasses & armed with a spring-action shooter to take on five unique carnival games.
Toy Story Land will ‘shrink’ guests to the size of a toy so they can step into the whimsical and beloved world of Pixar Animation Studios’ blockbuster franchise set in Andy’s backyard, and in keeping with the Land’s theming Woody’s Lunch Box has been created by Andy using his lunch box and thermos.
If you look closely at the rendering, you can see some of Andy’s favorite toys, items from his lunch, and maybe even a few green army man on a nearby lookout tower watching for Andy’s return.
“We can’t wait for our guests to experience Toy Story Land, and the new quick-service window located within the land will surely delight hungry toys and people alike,” said Carlos Castro, vice president of Disney Corporate Alliances.
While we don’t have a complete menu for the location yet, we know that it will serve “tasty meals and old-fashioned soda floats” and is the first in a multi-year strategic alliance with Mini Babybel, which has also been named the Official Snack Cheese of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the Disneyland Resort in California, and Disney Cruise Line.
“At Bel Brands USA, we are all about sharing smiles and we are delighted to bring that to life through our alliance with Disney,” said Francis Perrin, chief marketing officer of Bel Brands USA, makers of Mini Babybel cheese. “We believe Mini Babybel makes snack time an adventure in deliciousness for the whole family every day and now we can share that fun and great taste with even more families as they enjoy adventures of their own at Disney Parks.”
DISCLOSURE: I was invited by the Walt Disney World Resort to experience the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, but all opinions and over-use of exclamation points are 100% my own.
The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is back for its second year filling the park with a six week celebration of all forms of art forms from the visual to the culinary to the performing that is quickly becoming one of my favorite events at Walt Disney World.
While this year’s Epcot International Festival of the Arts has even more offerings than last year, the biggest and best change to this year’s Festival is that the fun continues seven days a week from now until February 19th!
With so much to do and experience at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, I wanted to share my list of ‘Must Do’s’ for your visit to the Festival!
9 Epcot International Festival of the Arts Must Do’s
1. Taste the Culinary Arts
It wouldn’t be a Festival at Epcot with amazing food, and at this year there are even more Food Studios with enticing tastes at stops around the World Showcase promenade.
Not only do the offerings taste amazing they are definitely photo-worthy with unique twists and interesting plating.
This year five new Food Studios have joined the culinary adventure for a total of 13 at the Festival, and you can find the new locations in:
France (“L’Art de la Cuisine Française” or “The Art of French Cooking”),
Morocco (“Mosaic Canteen”),
Japan (“Takumi Table”),
Italy (“L’Arte di Mangiare” or “The Art of Eating”), and
Also returning this year is the hands-on wall mural (located in the Expression Section which is on the Showcase Plaza Promenade as you are traveling to/from Canada from Future World), where you can pick up a brush and assigned paint color to complete a square of a mural with a certain dragon that is ‘from head to tail, he’s royal purple pigment‘.
3. Art Walk around World Showcase
Inside of each World Showcase Pavilion guests can find galleries showcasing artwork or relics from that country year round, but during the Epcot International Festival of the Arts guests will find an Art Walk in their Festival Guide that encourages them to visit each gallery to do a relief rubbing of the gallery’s icon plaque.
4. Unique finds
While this year’sEpcot International Festival of the Arts is really fantastic (I LOVE the water color inspired design), there are some really unique ways to bring home a souvenir from the event in addition to the artist booths.
Two of my favorites are Enemy Ink (located just inside of the building with Starbucks and Club Cool) where you can create a custom Festival t-shirt on-demand in a variety of designs & color combinations and Jortra Jewelry (their booth is located between Morocco and France in World Showcase) offering hand-made jewelry from natural materials melon seeds, orange peels and coffee beans.
5. Fun Photo Spots
Epcot is full of great photo spots, but during the Epcot International Festival of the Arts you can find some really unique ‘Artful Photo Ops’ throughout World Showcase where you get to step into famous works of arts.
You can find them in the following locations:
Italy: The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
Italy: The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci & The Scream by Edvard Munch
American Adventure: Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb
France: Luncheonof the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
There are PhotoPass photographers at each location, but they will also take photos with your camera or phone.
6. Free Seminars
During the Festival accomplished Disney artists, guest-perts, and Cast Members impart their professional expertise at complimentary seminars, hands-on workshops, and quick study sessions at the Odyssey Festival Showplace seven days a week.
These Seminars happen at 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm, but space is extremely limited so if there is one that you HAVE to attend make sure you arrive early to grab a seat.
You can find a week-by-week list of free seminars here.
Also, during the Epcot International Festival of the Arts you can find the Animation Academy (YAY!) intermittently from 2 pm – 8:30 pm in the Odyssey Festival Showplace where you can learn to draw Disney characters from Disney artists for FREE!
7. Interactive Workshops
Each week the interactive workshop series offers Festival Guests a unique opportunity to walk away with an enhanced skillset or new understanding of various artistic and culinary techniques from animation drawing and floral arranging to calligraphy, abstract painting and other interesting topics.
All of the interactive workshops ($39 per person plus tax, Epcot admission required but not included, & 15% discount per Annual Passholder or Disney Vacation Club Member) are held in the Odyssey Festival Showplace seven days a week at 11 am to 12:15 pm.
Space in these workshops is EXTREMELY limited, and you will need to make reservations in advance by calling (407) WDW-TOUR to reserve your spot or visit the Odyssey Festival Showplace. Guests under 18 years of age must have parent or guardian permission to call.
You can find a week-by-week list of the interactive workshops and how to book them here.
8. Live Performances
This year there is an increased presence in the performing arts at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts with entertainment on the Fountain View Plaza Stage throughout the day.
We had the opportunity to see the new Art Defying Gravity show, and it is amazing what those performers can do!!!
The Epcot Times Guide, found at the entrance and in retail locations throughout the park, lets you know when you can catch these fun performances.
9. Disney on Broadway Concert Series
The EXTREMELY popular (and rightly so) Disney on Broadway Concert Series take the stage in the American Gardens Theater in World Showplace on ‘Disney Weekends’ (Friday to Monday) bringing a taste of ‘The Great White Way’ to Florida!
The concerts showcase the stellar talents of performers who sing selections from award-winning Disney on Broadway musicals that you will not want to miss!
Here’s the lineup:
January 19-22: Kara Lindsay (NEW!) and Kevin Massey Jan. 19-22, who will perform songs from “Tarzan,” “Aladdin,” “Newsies” and “Frozen.”
January 26-29 and February 2-5: Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White will perform songs from “Tarzan,” “The Lion King,” “Aida,” “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid.”
February 9-12 and 16-19: Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland will perform songs from “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Tarzan,” “Mary Poppins,” “Newsies” and “Frozen.”
All Disney on Broadway shows are included in theme park admission and will take place Fridays through Mondays at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. Even though there are three shows a night, GET THERE EARLY!!! I cannot stress how popular these performances are!
New this year are the Disney on Broadway Concert Series Dining Packages that are available at five participating Epcot restaurants that can be booked online or by calling (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-7463.
*** BONUS FOR ALL WALT DISNEY WORLD ANNUAL PASSHOLDERS ***
Not only to Walt Disney World Annual Passholders have exclusive Festival merchandise, but they can receive an Epcot International Festival of the Arts print.
Simply go into the American Adventure Pavilion (you will see a sign outside guiding you to enter on the left set of doors), show your valid Walt Disney World Annual Pass and photo id, and a Cast Member will give you the Belle print with an embossed seal. It’s really pretty!!!
You can find out how to book specific experiences and find more information for planning your ultimate day at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts with the official website.
SeaWorld Orlando is bringing back a popular offer that has Florida Moms jumping for joy…the SeaWorld Orlando Preschool Card!
Now through December 31, 2018, Florida kids ages five and younger can enjoy all the excitement of SeaWorld Orlando for free by registering for the SeaWorld Orlando Preschool Card.
SeaWorld offers an ocean of experiences that are perfect for pint-sized guests, from up-close animal encounters to breathtaking live shows. The Preschool Card also includes popular SeaWorld events such as the Seven Seas Food Festival, Electric Ocean, Halloween Spooktacular, and the fan-favorite Christmas Celebration.
What you should know about the SeaWorld Orlando Preschool Card:
The 2018 Preschool Card ONLINE registration is exclusively for Florida residents,
Registration is open from now until May 13, 2018,
Advance registration must be completed ONLINE and cannot be done in person at the park, and
This offer is only valid for children ages five or younger at the time of redemption at the park.
SeaWorld Orlando has fun celebrations for the entire family all year, but this spring preschoolers and their families can dive into Just For Kids, an event crafted especially with young guests in mind. From April 21 to May 13, families can spend their weekends dancing to the beat and learning together along with everybody’s favorite furry, finned and flippered friends during this special event.
Parents can add Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, to their child’s Preschool Card for only $59.99 to enjoy two parks all year. From Walkabout Waters to Kata’s Kookabura Cove, young guests can explore endlessly on interactive play structures, splash zones, and miniature slides designed just for them. With the upcoming opening of Ray Rush, a new family raft ride, the Preschool Card presents a great value for families with young children in 2018.
For the first time ever at Universal Orlando Resort, guests will be able to celebrate their Hogwarts house pride during an all-new, breathtaking experience –The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle – debuting on Wednesday, January 31, and running select nights throughout the remainder of the year.
As night falls in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, state-of-the-art projection mapping, coupled with special effects and lighting, will wrap Hogwarts castle in a dazzling display celebrating the four houses of Hogwarts – Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Guests will watch in awe as the spirit and iconic elements of each house are brought to life on the majestic castle – all set to incredible music based on the original scores from the Harry Potter films.
This will be the second projection mapping experience that Universal Orlando has featured in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Over the holiday season, Universal debuted “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle,” which brought incredible Christmas moments inspired by the Harry Potter series to life. Both experiences were also featured at Universal Studios Hollywood.
“The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” will make its official debut at Universal Orlando Resort on Wednesday, January 31, and run continuously each evening starting at dusk select nights throughout the year – but park guests can preview the new experience on January 27 and January 28 during “A Celebration of Harry Potter 2018.”
And guests who’ve purchased A Celebration of Harry Potter vacation package can be among the first to see this experience at Universal Orlando during an exclusive preview event on Friday, January 26. Event packages can still be purchased here.
“The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” is scheduled to run January 31 – February 5, and February 7 – February 12. Additional dates will be announced at a later time onwww.universalorlando.com.
It’s almost time to let the good times roll at Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras Celebration from February 3 until April 7 at Universal Studios Florida!
During the celebration guests visiting the park can take in the sights, tastes, and the sounds of a real Mardi Gras experience.
One of our favorite highlights is the Headliners Concerts that take place on 13 select nights on the Music Plaza stage, including GRAMMY Award-winning rapper, Macklemore, international superstar and recording artist, Sean Paul and award-winning, multiplatinum chart-toppers, Fifth Harmony.
2018 Mardi Gras Headliners Concerts
February 3 – Sean Paul
February 10 – The Beach Boys
February 17 – Kelsea Ballerini
February 18 – Andy Grammer
February 24 -Macklemore
March 3 – 311
March 4 – Phillip Phillips
March 10 – To be announced
March 11 -Fitz and the Tantrums
March 17 – Foreigner
March 18 – Fifth Harmony
March 24 – To be announced
March 25 – BUSH
The musical stars won’t be the only ones on display as a constellation-themed Mardi Gras parade will keep the good times rolling every night throughout the streets of Universal Studios Florida with breathtakingly detailed floats, festive krewes of colorful dancers and stilt performers, and countless beads. Six new celestial floats – including Taurus, Virgo, and Serpentarius – complete a lineup of 12 intricately hand-crafted floats engineered by Kern Studios, designer of the original New Orleans Mardi Gras floats for more than 50 years.
Guests will also enjoy mouthwatering shrimp po’boys, jambalaya, beignets and more at the French Quarter Courtyard while listening to authentic sounds of New Orleans straight from Bourbon Street.
2018 Mardi Gras New Orleans Bands
February 3 – 20: Free Agents Brass Band
February 21 – March 6: Naughty Professor Brass Band
March 7 – March 20: New Breed Brass Band
March 21 – March 31: Young Pinstripe Brass Band
April 1 – April 7: Dirty Bourbon River Show
The excitement of Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras celebration is included with admission to Universal Studios Florida or with an annual pass. Florida Residents can get three months free on Power, Preferred and Premier Annual Passes with a UPC code from select Coca-Cola products. For more information, visit www.universalorlando.com/mardigras.
We look forward to Mardi Gras every year, and can’t wait for this year’s fun!!!
For three weekends in January LEGO NINJAGO Days will fill LEGOLAND Florida with ninja-themed activities, new LEGO character meet-and-greets, delicious, kid-friendly treats and the debut of a 12-minute, “4D” theatrical attraction starring the heroes of Cartoon Network’s “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu”.
Included with all forms of theme park admission, LEGO NINJAGO Days joins the park’s immersive land, LEGO NINJAGO World, nearly one year after it opened with a groundbreaking interactive ride the whole family can enjoy.
LEGO NINJAGO Days
Jan. 20-21 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Jan. 27-28 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Feb. 3-4 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Event activities – included with theme park admission:
On Saturday, Jan. 20. the theme park will debut “LEGO NINJAGO: Master of the 4th Dimension,” an action-packed film that combines computer-generated 3D animation with 4D effects such as wind, water and fog in an original story in which Master Wu’s ninja students find themselves trapped in a mind-bending dimension. The short film will play six times daily at the Wells Fargo Fun Town Theater each day of the event and will join the theater’s other 4D films afterward.
For the first time ever, strike a ninja pose with the wise, all-knowing Master Wu, who joins ninja siblings Kai and Nya for daily meet-and-greets.
On event dates only, guests also can meet Lloyd Garmadon, the secret Green Ninja from “The LEGONINJAGO Movie”.
Achieve a state of zen or show off your wacky ninja moves during the once-a-day “ninjoga” session – a yoga class just for kids.
Come dressed as your favorite LEGO NINJAGO hero or villain for a chance to win a LEGO prize.
Join Master Wu and his crew of ninjas to defend NINJAGO City from Lord Garmadon and his evil Shark Army in “THE LEGO NINJAGO Movie”video game.
Count every Master Wu hiding among the landmarks of MINILAND USA and drop off an entry form at LEGO Studio Store for a chance to win a LEGO prize pack.
Fuel your ninja
Visit Market Restaurant for delicious treats including kid-themed candy sushi, ham and cheese sandwich sushi, chocolate-dipped fortune cookies and ninja trail mix.Available for a limited time only.
Staying the night
LEGOLAND Hotel guests will enjoy a nightly Ninja Training School, a competition build, a scavenger hunt and guest appearances by different LEGO NINJAGO heroes.
LEGOLANDBeach Retreat will host a NINJAGO warrior obstacle course and nightly scavenger hunt.
The fun continues inside LEGO NINJAGO World, where kids can practice their martial arts skills in the Ninja Training Camp before becoming the ninja on LEGO NINJAGO The Ride as they blast fireballs, lightning and more at villains like Lord Garmadon and the Great Devourer while the vehicle keeps score. Shop like a ninja – and even dress like one – at Wu’s Warehouse, a themed retail shop filled with LEGO NINJAGO building sets, children’s apparel, costumes, books, souvenirs and more.
DISCLOSURE: I was invited guest of the Walt Disney World Resort to experience THE VOID on opening day, but all opinions are my own.
Disney in collaboration with THE VOID, Lucasfilm and ILMxLAB has launched a new “hyper-reality” VR experience in Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort. The Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire “hyper-reality” experience is an immersive virtual reality experience like no other.
Part of legitimate Star Wars canon, the experience takes place around the time of Rogue One and features characters like Captain Cassian, Darth Vader, and K-2SO. Part of a rebel team, your mission is to infiltrate a covert imperial base in search of the mysterious contents of a secret shipment. Unlike other virtual reality experiences, as you make your way through THE VOID you truly feel like you are in an alternate reality. You and your team, dressed as Imperial Stormtroopers, must fight your way through the base as the smells of sulfur permeate your nose and the heat of molten rock radiates beneath you.
Here are my 5 tips for a successful mission inside THE VOID:
Take extra time with the fit and securing of your pack to ensure that you feel all the haptic feedback from laser blasts and explosions.
Guests must be 10 years old and at least 48” tall, and the pack weighs more than 15 pounds, so ensure your children are ok carrying the weight.
When you get into the staging room, make sure the volume on your helmet is turned up, so you can hear the experience as well as your teammates.
Wear close-toed shoes to keep from tripping or getting your feet stepped on by your teammates.
Teamwork is critical, so make sure you communicate with your fellow rebels throughout the mission.
You begin your experience in a briefing room where you verify your identity, choose your storm trooper uniform, and have your missing briefing from Captain Cassian. Once you are clear on your mission you move into the equipment room to get your pack and helmet before boarding your hijacked imperial shuttle. Once you arrive at the imperial base, K-2SO will help guide you through the mission. This is a completely immersive experience, so make sure you look and feel around your environment to see everything. You will have to interact with physical objects like blasters, door locks, and computer panels to complete your mission.
SeaWorld Orlando is kicking off their all-new Three Kings Celebration today where families are invited to help commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men with authentic festive cuisine and celebratory experiences held in honor of the cherished tradition of Latin cultures.
The new event, happening from now until January 6th, features guest favorites from SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration along with several new experiences centered around the Epiphany.
SeaWorld Orlando Three Kings Celebration events include:
Three Kings Processional- Welcome the Three Wise Men to a live nativity scene depicting the arrival of the Three Kings. A storyteller will share the tale of their journey and the traditions of the Three Kings holiday to park guests. The processional, featuring live animals, will take place several times throughout the day and offer a truly special photo opportunity for park guests.
Special Holiday Feast at Sharks Underwater Grill- Guests can enjoy a traditional Latin holiday dish at SeaWorld’s premier full-service restaurant, Sharks Underwater Grill. The event-exclusive menu features roasted pork with onion mojo arroz con gandules, pasteles and fried tostones garnished with mayoquetchup. For dessert, the restaurant will feature a house-made flan drizzled with caramel.
Festive Food and Drinks- Food connoisseurs can enjoy Latin-inspired dishes and drinks prepared exclusively for SeaWorld’s Three Kings Celebration. Menu items include miniature papas rellenas (fried stuffed potatoes), empanadas (cheese, chicken or beef), bacalaitos (codfish fritters) and authentic pinchos. Libations include frozen coquitos and frozen sangria.
Live Musical Entertainment- While new holiday flavors tempt guests’ taste buds; live musical street acts will have the family singing along to a variety of Latin holiday favorites.
Rudolph’s Christmas Town – Guests can immerse themselves into the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at Rudolph’s Christmas Town. As guests stroll past life-size story book vignettes featuring the classic tale, they’ll have the opportunity to meet their favorite characters: Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble and Yukon Cornelius.
O Wondrous Night – Experience a live nativity only SeaWorld can bring to life, complete with more than 30 carols, life-sized puppets, and animals in a spectacular Christmas favorite based on The Christmas Story. Told through the eyes of the animals that were there, O Wondrous Night is a touching, light-hearted, and glorious celebration with a host of angels, animals, and the true glory of Christmas. Guests can also enjoy a special sing-along before the show.
Sea of Trees – Families will end their evening immersed in a sea of glistening holiday trees that sparkle to music as they light up the water. Dazzling images come to life on over 100 trees, including a giant glistening centerpiece that towers 70-feet above the water.
The best part of the SeaWorld Orlando Three Kings Celebration is that it is included with park admission and begins at 11 am daily, January 1 – 6, continuing through park close.
Gatorland has just completed their largest expansion since the park’s opening in 1949, and it features a brand new (and super fun) off-road adventure that Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure ride and Gator Joe’s Adventure Outpost.
For the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure, guest climb aboard one of three, 12-foot-high custom-made, off-road monster vehicles for a 15-minute rugged and hilarious adventure like no other theme park ride anywhere. This exciting ride is chocked full of wacky new Gatorland characters, singing tour guides, swampy adventure, and, of course, lots of alligators. Each vehicle is specially branded and named after iconic real alligators and crocodiles at Gatorland, including Bonecrusher, Cannibal Jake, and Swamp Ghost.
Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure’s story line is a journey into the world of Gator Gardens, a fictional rival park that takes over a swamp buggy business from a new Gatorland character named Swampy Sal. Tour guides take riders off-road for a very different adventure of unexpected twists and turns, including an alligator graveyard and a plunge through a pond of hungry alligators. A comedic plot played out between monster vehicle drivers and on-board personal guides is played out in the wild search for Swampy Sal.
“This is great entertainment and loads of fun,” said Gatorland President & CEO Mark McHugh. “Our new ride is a perfect addition to all our featured adventure activities throughout the park. The fact is, there’s not another ride like this anywhere. We showcase beautiful Florida swamps, piney woods, and alligators with a rough, bouncy ride featuring our very own style of country humor. This is a great ride.”
Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure vehicles depart from the brand new Gator Joe’s Adventure Outpost building, home base for all of Gatorland’s add-on adventures such as Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, Gator Night Shine, Adventure Hour, Trainer For The Day and more. It also serves as a second gift shop for the park, selling Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure exclusive merchandise, snacks and beverages.
Gator Joe’s Adventure Outpost is named after Ernest “Gator Joe” Brown, who was hired by Owen Godwin Sr., Gatorland’s founder, to work at the park. Brown was known all over Central Florida, especially throughout Kissimmee and Osceola County, as Gator Joe because of his great love and expertise with alligators. Gator Joe raised thousands and thousands of baby gators at Gatorland. He had a special knack for getting them to eat and grown quickly. When he hollered “GATOR! GATOR BOY!” across the lakes, every gator would swim as fast as they could to meet him. Gator Joe worked at Gatorland from 1958 until shortly before he passed away in 2013. For almost 60 years, Gator Joe and his family’s influence on Gatorland has run long and deep, with some of his family still working at Gatorland today.
Cost for adults and children to ride Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure is $10, in addition to park admission. Minimum height of 36 inches is required to ride. Tickets can be purchased at the park admission gate or at Gator Joe’s Adventure Outpost.
Aloma Bowling Centers offer savings, fun with Winter All Access Pass
Guests can save up to 40% off retail prices
The kids are out of school. Parents are off work. Family is in town. Luckily for them, Aloma Bowling Centers have the solution for Central Floridians looking for something to keep their crew entertained this winter.
Aloma Bowl, Boardwalk Bowl Entertainment Center, and Airport Lanes are offering huge savings on all things entertainment with the Winter All Access Pass.
For just $15 plus tax per person, guests will receive two games of bowling and shoe rental and a $10 arcade card or arcade tokens. That is up to 40 percent off retail prices.
Boardwalk Bowl is offering the pass in December and January, with Aloma Bowl and Airport Lanesjoining in to offer the pass in January.
The deal is the perfect way for families and groups to experience all the entertainment centers have to offer, and it’s a great way to keep everyone entertained this winter break.
In addition to entertainment, all of the Aloma Bowling Centers offer a full bar with delicious drinks and food options, including fresh sandwiches, pizza, salads and more.
In 1998 Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts teamed up for the first to bring La Nouba to life on stage, and twenty years later Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts have announced that they are working together on a new project to take the stage in the iconic building located on the West Side of Disney Springs.
The new show will be created by Cirque du Soleil in collaboration with Disney, and will draw its inspiration from Disney’s heritage of animation. It will celebrate Disney’s legacy of storytelling in Cirque du Soleil’s signature way, with a tribute to the one-of a kind craftsmanship that makes Disney so extraordinary.
“This long-standing relationship is built on mutual esteem and the success achieved by our two creative businesses throughout the past two decades with La Nouba,” said Tiffany Rende, Senior Vice President, Corporate Alliances and Operating Participants, The Walt Disney Corporation. “We look forward to our continued collaboration with Cirque du Soleil in developing this new show that will honor Disney animation’s rich history.”
After paying homage to some of entertainment’s greatest artists, such as The Beatles and Michael Jackson, Cirque du Soleil will leap into the iconic world of Disney.
Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, added “We are incredibly inspired by Disney’s immense creative universe. We are convinced that bringing Disney’s magic to life on stage will touch audiences and bring them back to their childhood.”
The curtain falls on La Nouba for their final performance on December 31, 2017, but its impact on the Walt Disney World has left an impressive legacy. Since its première, La Nouba has entertained more than 11 million guests, has performed close to 9,000 shows, have flipped 2.8 million times in the PowerTrack act, and the wardrobe department has handled over 21 million costumes and headpieces. Tickets are still available for your chance to watch the show one more time before it takes its final bow.
Christian music fans can kick off their year in high gear with a day of fellowship and fun at SeaWorld Orlando’s Praise Wave. The live concert event series takes place every Saturday from January 20 to February 10, 2018.
Guests can enjoy live musical performances by some of the hottest names in Christian music and celebrate in an atmosphere filled with Christian friendship, thrilling rides and inspiring animal attractions.
2018 Praise Wave musical performances include:
Saturday, January 20 Steven Curtis Chapman: In a career that has spanned 30 years, Steven Curtis Chapman is the most awarded artist in Christian music history with 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, five Grammys, an American Music Award, 48 No. 1 singles, selling over 11 million albums, with ten RIAA-certified gold and platinum albums to his credit.
Saturday, January 27 – Lecrae: Lecrae is a two-time Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist whose 2014 album, “Anomaly,” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, Rap, Digital, Christian, Gospel, and Independent charts. His seven studio albums and mixtapes have sold more than 1.9 million copies and he has co-headlined some of the best-selling tours in the U.S.
Saturday, February 3 – TBA
Saturday, February 10 – MercyMe: Grammy-nominated, multiple American Music Award and Dove Award winners MercyMe have sold more than 8.5 million units in CD, single and DVD sales, garnered 27 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream radio hits with “I Can Only Imagine,” “Here With Me,” “Homesick” and “So Long Self.”
Live concerts take place at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. each Saturday in the park’s Nautilus Theater and are included with park admission. Reserved seating packages for all performances are available online at SeaWorldOrlando.com and start at $19.
Live musical performances at the park continue in February with the return of SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival. As guests sip and sample their way through the park, they will discover globally-inspired flavors while enjoying local craft beers and culinary marketplaces. The fun goes beyond the food with live performances from top country, rock and Latin music artists for 9 consecutive weekends, February 17 – April 15.
The best deal for guests to experience Praise Wave, and all of SeaWorld’s special events throughout the year, is with a SeaWorld Fun Card which includes unlimited admission with no blockout dates thru December 31, 2018. For more information and to purchase tickets visit SeaWorldOrlando.com.
DISCLOSURE: I was invited by Walt Disney World to attend a day of exploring Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays, but all opinions are my own.
Celebrating and exploring the customs of the holidays around the world has always been a staple of Epcot’s rich history, but this year they are kicking off the first Epcot International Festival of the Holidays with even more entertainment, food, and activities for the entire family from now until December 30th.
What makes celebrating the holidays at Epcot so fantastic is that this journey is included with your admission to the park, and celebrating is an entire day (or two) experience that takes you from morning to night that you won’t want to miss.
So let’s take a peek at what you won’t want to miss during the first Epcot International Festival of the Holidays!
Celebrating The Season At Epcot’s Festival Of The Holidays
Celebrating the Holidays Around the World
There’s no better way to get caught up in the holiday spirit than by traveling to the 11 countries in Epcot’s World Showcase to see the wondrous sights, sounds, and stories of the season as they celebrated by cultures near and far.
In addition to the traditional holiday decorations and music in each nation’s pavilion, you can find the following story tellers:
Canada – Holiday Voyageurs sing seasonal tunes,
United Kingdom – Father Christmas discusses local holiday traditions,
France – Pere Noel tells a story about the French tradition of children leaving their shoes out for Christmas,
Morocco – A cultural representative tells tales of Moroccan festivals and other traditions,
Japan – The story here is focused on the Japanese New Year, O-Shogatsu, with the story of the origin of the Daruma dolls,
America – You can hear the story of Hanukkah, Kwanza, see the Voices of Liberty perform holiday favorites, & meet traditional Santa and Mrs. Claus,
Italy – La Benafa, the good witch, tells the story of the Epiphany,
Germany – Helga tells us the origin story of the Nutcracker,
China – Dragon dancers excite the crowd to celebrate the New Year,
Norway – Sigrid tells the tale of the gnome Julenissen, who makes an appearance later in the show, and
Mexico – Fiesta de Navidad with Mariach Cobre and traditional dancers bring to life the traditions of the Mexican culture with music, dances, and stories during this holiday fiesta.
There are SOOOOO many storytellers to see, so if you can spread out your day you will find that you are bouncing around World Showcase less. Make sure to keep a keen eye on your times guide for how to best schedule your day!
There are also two new groups that are beyond fantastic that you won’t want to miss!
El Mariachi Coco de Santa Cecilia
In the Mexico Pavilion you can find a new celebration of Día de los Muertos inspired by Coco, the new animated feature from Disney•Pixar, as the El Mariachi Coco de Santa Cecilia perform songs from the film.
The show is full of fun & heart that lasts a little over 10 minutes, and runs several times a day until January 6, 2018.
There is no better description of Mostly Kosher than the one they give themselves on their Facebook Page.
“Mostly Kosher, a Los Angeles based indie-global-collective, radically reconstructs Judaic and American cultural musical roots. Through ravenous post-klezmer beats and arresting Yiddish refrains, Mostly Kosher is a musical feast that explodes into a global food-fight of Jazz, Latin, Rock, Hip Hop, World and Folk. These fearless soundsmiths highlight the architecture of heritage music and yet raze it to the ground.”
While this is a celebration of traditional Hanukkah songs and Jewish musical traditions rooted in klezmer music, their music is universal as it taps into several genres. You’ll be dancing and tapping your toes before you know it!
JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season
JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season brings a blend of inspiring gospel with jazz, R&B, and more to create a brand new show that showcases Christmas and Kwanza traditions several times a day on the Future World Fountain Stage. The spirit of this show is fantastic, and once the show starts you will find that you won’t be able to walk away.
Then on December 26th there will be a festive and JOYFUL Kwanza experience that you will want to catch.
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Holiday Kitchens
Let’s grab that complimentary Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Holiday Passport that available throughout the park for a peek at the new (and delicious) holiday kitchens serving up tasty treats until December 30th!
Throughout the park there are 15 holiday markets spread throughout the park offering up traditional fare from around the world. My favorite dishes are the Cheese Fondue (The Bavaria Holiday Kitchen in the Germany Pavilion) that is served with bread and steamed vegetables, the Roasted Pork with Smashed Yucca and Pickled Green Bananas (Feast of the Three Kings Holiday Kitchen in Showcase Plaza), and the Gingersnap Cookie with Cream Cheese Icing and Cranberry Jam (The Cookie Nook – The Odyssey).
In addition to Holiday Kitchens, each of the four Joffery’s Coffee and Tea Company kiosks throughout the park have a signature beverage.
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Merchandise
As with any special event at Walt Disney World, there is a large assortment of merchandise to commemorate the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. And I especially love that it features Chip & Dale!!!
In addition to the official event merchandise, you can find special holiday merchandise at many of the countries in the World Showcase. Make sure to drop in as you are exploring the park for some traditional cultural gifts.
Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree
Becoming a staple of the festivals at Epcot are the family-friendly scavenger hunts, and during the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays the hunt features two familiar and mischievous friends.
Chip and Dale are collecting ornaments for their Christmas tree—and they need your help! To get started, simply purchase a map and sticker from select merchandise locations including Pin Central, Disney Traders, and World Traveler at International Gateway.
As you travel around World Showcase, be on the lookout for Chip and Dale as they gather ornaments from holiday decorations in each World Showcase pavilion. Once you spot them, add the corresponding ornament sticker to your map. Once you have found all the ornaments, you simply take your completed map to Disney Traders and exchange it for a festive surprise, courtesy of Chip and Dale!
Maps are $6.99 plus tax, and are available throughout Holidays Around the World at Epcot while supplies last.
The heart of any day at Epcot during the holidays is the Candlelight Processional in the American Gardens Theater in front of the American Pavilion in the World Showcase.
Each night until December 30th, a celebrity narrator tells the biblical tale of a savior born to a virgin in Bethlehem with choral pieces woven into the production as a fifty piece orchestra and stage filling choir provide an inspirational backdrop with songs of hope and joy.
This year, an exciting line-up of celebrities—including a few new faces and voices—are set to lend their talents. Still left to present this season are:
Neil Patrick Harris – December 18 to 21, 2017
NEW! CCH Pounder – December 22 to 24, 2017
Jaci Velasquez – December 25 to 27, 2017
Chandra Wilson – December 28 to 30, 2017
Admission to the Candlelight Processional is included with your theme park admission, and showtimes are nightly at 5:00 pm, 6:45 pm, & 8:15 pm. However, you will absolutely want to arrive early to queue up for a seat. While seats are not guaranteed, you can secure a seat with a Candlelight Processional Dining Package.
Candlelight Processional Dining Packages
Candlelight Dining Packages are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and include a 3-course meal or full buffet (depending on the location), and guarantee priority seating at at Candlelight Processional show that same day.
You can find a full list of restaurants and prices here, but as with anything there are a few things to keep in mind before you book your Candlelight Processional Dining Package:
Tax and Gratuity are not included with the prices listed,
Meals do not include alcoholic beverages in the price but they are available for purchase,
You will be given your Candlelight Processional badge from your chosen restaurant location at the end of the meal,
and while you are guaranteed seating you will still want to arrive early to queue up for a seat.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
Every night IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth lights the Epcot sky above The World Showcase Lagoon, but during the holiday season park goers are in for a special fireworks tag treat that has so many shells your bells will be jingled from now until December 30th!
Featuring holiday greetings in native languages from the countries of World Showcase, along with the beloved sounds of the classic song “Let There be Peace on Earth,” this festive finish leaves you with a joyful message of “peace on earth and goodwill to men.”
My best tip for watching IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is to watch which way the flames from the torches are blowing before the show, because if they are blowing towards you so is the smoke so you will want to move. There really isn’t a bad spot to watch from around the World Showcase Lagoon.
The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays expanded entertainment, food, and activities make it a welcome addition to the holiday celebrations in Orlando!
Ripleys Believe It or Not! is always full of fun, but they have a special holiday treat for Florida Residents this holiday season!
From now until December 20th, Ripleys Florida attractions are offering half price tickets for Florida residents.
Participating Ripleys attractions include:
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! St. Augustine Odditorium, daytime Red Train Tours and Ghost Train Adventure
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Panama City Beach Odditorium
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Key West Odditorium
Residents will need to show a local photo ID in order to receive the discount. All adults in the party will need to have proof of residency in order to receive the discount.
Ripley’s Orlando Odditorium has a special ‘Must See’ this holiday season, they have the World’s Most Expensive Dress on display.
What dress is it? Why it’s the rhinestone encrusted gown Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade President John F. Kennedy during his birthday celebration in 1962 is on display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! until just after the New Year. Ripley’s purchased the dress for nearly $5 million dollars, making it the most expensive dress sold at auction.