Things To Know On The Go: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Things to Know On the Go Header Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party takes place on select nights from now until December 18th, and this separate ticketed event is a great way to kick off your Holiday Season!

As with any Special Event at Walt Disney World planning is key to making your most of your time, and with so many exclusive entertainment, character, shopping, or food offerings prioritizing your ‘Must Do’s’ is as important as ever!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

So here are 10 things to keep in mind when you are creating your game-plan for attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!

10 Things To Know On The Go: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

1. While the event begins at 7 pm, you can gain access to the Magic Kingdom at 4 pm and if you are in the park before the event you can get wristbands inside the park in Tomorrowland and Adventureland.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

2. FastPass+ is not offered during the Party, so arriving early can help you knock out some attractions as the crowds will begin thinning as the party begins.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

I suggest catching a ride on the Jingle Cruise as soon as you arrive, because the lighting is better for viewing all the festive additions to the attraction.

3. During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party you can find several locations around the park offering Hot Chocolate and Sugar Cookies.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

If you have allergies or dietary restrictions they offer apple juice, apple slices, grapes, and gluten free cookies at the same locations.

4. If you don’t arrive to the Party early, don’t fret that you’ve missed the Castle Lighting. ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish’ is performed at BOTH 6:15 pm and 8:00 pm.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

5. The Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade steps off from Frontierland twice a night during the Party, and really there is no bad spot to watch from.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

I will say that it is a slower moving parade, so if you are on Main Street you will have quite a wait for the parade to reach you.

6. This year I switched up my Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party game plan, and I really enjoyed it!

Now hear me out on this before you completely judge me…

As soon as the 6:15 pm ‘A Frozen Holiday Wish’ was over, I went on the hunt for a spot to sit in front of the castle.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Celebrate the Season

While we did invest quite a chunk of our night to sitting (Thank you Heads Up for being a great app to have on your phone for the kids) from our spot we saw Celebrate the Season, A Frozen Holiday Wish, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, Celebrate the Magic, and Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season without moving with Cinderella Castle as our backdrop.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Once Upon A Christmas Time Parade

However, since the girls were rested we were able to stay the rest of the party and enjoyed shorter waits for attractions and characters as the night went on.

Believe me when I say that this plan isn’t for everyone, and you need to make sure that everyone in your group is completely on board.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Celebrate the Magic Holiday Tag

We were really lucky to have made friends with a wonderful family around us from Louisiana, so we were able to go on Hot Chocolate and Sugar Cookie runs together for the gang during the longer breaks.

7. The Exclusive Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card this year is adorable as it features Olaf and the Snowgies!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

I suggest grabbing your card early, not because they will run out but because you might forget after a long night of merriment!

8. I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but the Party Exclusive merchandise is great!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

I HAD to have this ornament!!!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

9. New this year is performances by VoicePlay. Voice play is an acclaimed acapella group who you may know from ‘The Sing-Off’, and they take to the Rockettower Plaza Stage in Tomorrowland between performances of ‘A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas’.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas PartyTheir show is short, sweet, and super fun! I totally recommend catching them at least once during the Party!!!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

10. ‘Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season’ is a WONDERFUL fireworks show that includes perimeter launches, and while watching facing Cinderella Castle is the way that most people go don’t be afraid to watch from New Fantasyland. It is gorgeous!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

BONUS!!!

11. If you love meeting Characters, you will LOVE Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!

You can find…

  • Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws – Storybook Circus (If this is your top Character priority, as soon as you arrive head back to his area)
  • Donald, Scrooge McDuck, Daisy, Minnie – Storybook Circus
  • Santa Goofy – near Barnstormer
  • Big Al, Liverlips, Shaker and Wendell – Liberty Square
  • Seven Dwarfs – Fantasyland near Mine Train (very popular! Line up by 6 to meet them.)
  • Princesses with their Princes – In Princess Fairytale Hall, you can find Cinderella with her Prince and Rapunzel with Flynn Rider. Just outside in Fantasyland, you will find Aurora with Prince Phillip and Snow White with her Prince.Tiana and Prince Naveen can be found in Liberty Square.
  • Tigger and Friends – Fantasyland near Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Santa Claus – Town Square (Not Party Exclusive, but I thought I would leave him on the list)

You can see more of our pictures from Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on our Facebook and Instagram Pages, and to follow along on our adventures make sure you follow us on Twitter!

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Christmas Town Returns to Busch Gardens Tampa

Christmas Town will take place 20 selects dates between November 27 through December 31.  New this year, the cheer keeps going until 10 p.m. every event night. The event is included with park admission.

Busch Gardens Tampa Christmas Town

Christmas Town creates beautiful family traditions for guests as Busch Gardens is transformed into a holiday wonderland with more than a million twinkling lights, Christmas entertainment, live music, festive treats, and holiday shopping.

Busch Gardens Tampa Christmas Town

The park will be filled with cheery surprises including Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola®, where guests can meet the big man himself as he takes a break from his busy holiday schedule to take photos with families in his private study.

Busch Gardens Tampa Christmas Town

Christmas Town is included with any Annual Pass, Fun Card or daily admission to Busch Gardens. For more information, visit buschgardenstampa.com.

Busch Gardens Tampa Christmas Town

For groups looking to book unique holiday parties, there also are magnificent Christmas Town packages. For details, call the Busch Gardens Events Team at 813-987-5523.

Busch Gardens Tampa logo Photo Key Wild Days

Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following the park’s blog at BuschGardensTampaBlog.com, or “Like” the Busch Gardens Facebook page, and follow @buschgardens on Twitter and Instagram.

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Universal Orlando News: A Celebration of Harry Potter Line-Up

Universal Orlando Resort A Celebration of Harry Potter

Universal Orlando News: A Celebration of Harry Potter Line-Up

Harry Potter Film Stars Rupert Grint, Matthew Lewis, Katie Leung, Bonnie Wright, and Evanna Lynch to appear at ‘A Celebration of Harry Potter’ at Universal Orlando Resort

Three-Day Event to Feature Film Talent Q&A Sessions,

Interactive Panels & Demonstrations, the Sorting Hat Experience and More

 

Harry Potter film stars Rupert Grint, Bonnie Wright, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, and Katie Leung will appear at “A Celebration of Harry Potter” – a special event hosted by Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Creative talent also set to appear includes Pierre Bohanna, head prop maker for the Harry Potter film franchise,Paul Harris, the world’s only Wand Combat choreographer, and designers Eduardo Lima and Miraphora Mina of MinaLima, who established the visual graphic style of the Harry Potter films.

A Celebration of Harry Potter Universal Orlando -
I’m skilled at wand combat…Just saying…

“A Celebration of Harry Potter” will take place from January 29 – 31, 2016 at Universal Orlando, allowing fans to celebrate all of Harry’s adventures, from the beloved books to the feature films and more. Guests will enjoy three days of incredible experiences, including Q&A sessions with Harry Potter film talent, special panels and demonstrations with creative talent, and access to the Harry Potter Expo – where fans can enjoy the Sorting Hat experience, an interactive mini tour from Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and more.

Guests can also experience Harry Potter’s world for themselves by visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Vacation Package guests and those with a park-to-park ticket will also be able to board the iconic Hogwarts Express and enjoy a unique journey as they travel between King’s Cross Station and Hogsmeade Station.

A Celebration of Harry Potter Universal Orlando -
Access to “A Celebration of Harry Potter” is included with regular theme park admission or with an annual pass, with admission to certain activities being granted on a first-come, first-served basis. While most of the activities for “A Celebration of Harry Potter” will be open to all Universal Orlando park guests and will take place at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida theme parks, guests who purchase the exclusive event vacation package will enjoy certain special benefits and reserved sections for the panels and demonstrations.

Here’s the A Celebration of Harry Potter Event Line-Up:

A Celebration of Harry Potter Expo Marquee
HARRY POTTER EXPO (Universal Studios Florida theme park)
The Harry Potter Expo will be held inside a Universal Orlando soundstage and will be open to guests throughout the weekend.  The expo will include the following booths and exhibits that will give guests deeper insight into the global phenomenon that is Harry Potter:

  • Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London offers visitors the chance to relive the magic through the eyes of the filmmakers who brought the Harry Potter film series to life. Visitors can step on to authentic sets and admire the real props and costumes used during filming at the series’ production home in England, UK.

The Studio Tour is bringing an interactive taste of the experience to ‘A Celebration of Harry Potter’ 2016, giving you the chance to see the incredible behind-the-scenes talent that went into creating the iconic film series. 

  • Harry Potter: The Exhibition

Sorting Hat Experience

Are you a Gryffindor or a Slytherin? A Hufflepuff or perhaps a Ravenclaw? At the beginning of each school year the Sorting Hat places new Hogwarts students into a house, and now you too have the opportunity to get sorted in a Great Hall setting inspired by the blockbuster films.

Step inside the Expo and the red carpet is rolled out welcoming you to an area celebrating the global impact Harry Potter: The Exhibition has had during its 7-year, 13-city tour, including an exclusive Quidditch inspired photo opportunity.

  • MinaLima

Graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima worked for ten years on the Harry Potter films, creating countless unforgettable graphic props, some of which will be on display including iconic pieces such as The Marauder’s Map, Daily Prophet and Hogwarts school books. Since working on the films, they created the MinaLima Store selling authentic reproductions of the film artwork with limited edition art prints and stationery. They are currently in production on the new feature film from Warner Bros. Pictures, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

  • Pottermore from J.K. Rowling

Pottermore is the digital heart of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World and if discovering more about her magical universe excites you, Pottermore has a surprise in store for fans attending this year’s Celebration of Harry Potter. And keep your eyes peeled for their new Pottermore Correspondent (Rita Skeeter she certainly isn’t), who’ll be there hunting out exclusive scoops and bringing you updates on pottermore.com from the weekend’s activities.

  • Scholastic

Celebrate Harry Potter at Scholastic’s booth by sharing a message about what Harry Potter means to you. Color in a magical page from our brand-new Harry Potter coloring book. Be sure to enter daily raffles for a chance to win a copy of the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a box set of all seven Harry Potter books, or a Harry Potter coloring book. Collectible giveaways are available for Harry Potter fans of all ages.

“A CELEBRATION OF HARRY POTTER” PANELS AND DEMONSTRATIONS (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida theme parks)

A Celebration of Harry Potter Universal Orlando -

Demonstrations and Q&A sessions will be available featuring Harry Potter film talent and crew, with special panels and demonstrations for kids. Admission into panels and demonstrations will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Specific times will be released at a later date.

  • Behind the Scenes: Harry Potter Film Talent Discussion

Enjoy a fascinating and interactive Q&A session featuring some of your favorite actors from the Harry Potter films. Discover what it was like to work on the most successful film franchise in history.

  • Behind-the-scenes of the Harry Potter props with Pierre Bohanna

Ever wondered how long it takes to make a wand? Or where the inspiration for the hundreds of wand designs in the Harry Potter film series came from? Warner Bros. Studio Tour London presents head prop maker for the films, Pierre Bohanna, who will answer these questions and more. Once you’ve discovered how they were made, raise your own wand as Death Eaters invade the stage to demonstrate how battle scenes were brought to life. 

  • The Global Impact of Harry Potter: The Exhibition

Join us in celebrating the touring attraction that’s visited 13 cities in 9 countries and hosted almost 4 million guests. Harry Potter: The Exhibition is in a unique position to reflect on the global impact of the franchise. Get an exclusive look at the exhibition’s creation and the excitement it continues to deliver to fans around the world. Panel will include exhibition creators, film producers, and film actors who have participated in the openings.

  • Graphic Design for the Harry Potter Films with MinaLima

Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, from the graphic design studio MinaLima, will share insights into their role as graphic prop designers, and how their paths crossed at the WB film studios while working for 10 years on the Harry Potter movies. They will discuss and show some of the iconic props they created for the Harry Potter films, including The Marauder’s Map, the Daily Prophet, and The Quibbler, amongst others.  Still immersed in all things Harry Potter, they will also talk about their  involvement in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, for which they designed all the street and store graphics. During the panel they will welcome questions from the audience.

This year’s “A Celebration of Harry Potter” will also include kids’ demonstrations and interactive experiences such as a ‘Dance Like a Beauxbatons and Battle Like a Durmstrang’ experience, as well as Harry Potter film trivia.

To join the conversation, use #HPCelebration. For more information about the event, tickets and available exclusive event vacation packages, visit www.universalorlando.com/celebration.

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Blue Man Group To Perform Sensory Friendly Show In December #DareToLive

Blue Man Group Autism Speaks Universal Orlando Resort

Blue Man Group Supports Autism Speaks with Sensory-Friendly Show December 5, 2015

Tickets are on sale now at http://bit.ly/1KXM90V

 

Blue Man Group will host a sensory-friendly show, suitable for children with autism spectrum disorders, supporting Autism Speaks on Saturday, December 5 at 6 pm at Universal Orlando Resort.

Co-founder Phil Stanton on why this partnership is an important step for Blue Man Group:

 

“We’ve heard from many families affected by autism that their children responded to the Blue Man character in a very moving way.  We don’t know the exact reason. We can only speculate that it has to do with the Blue Men communicating in their own unique way — non-verbally, through visuals, touch and sound. Their message often resonates on a deeper, more sincere level,” says Phil Stanton, Blue Man Group Co-Founder, “Once we knew that we could be helpful or provide an outlet for those affected by autism, we  felt it was important to do more. With our sensory-friendly shows, we want to create a safe and welcoming environment for individuals and families affected by this disorder, in the hopes that they can have an entertaining and joyful experience together.”

Slight modifications will be made to the show including:

  • Reducing sound and light levels at various moments during the performance.
  • Sound reducing headphones will be available upon request.
  • The Blue Men will limit the amount of direct audience interaction and keep their approach to the audience more subdued.
  • Blue Man Group will also create calming environments in the theater’s lobby for families seeking a break from the excitement.

Tickets start at $49 (plus applicable fees) with a portion of proceeds from the event going directly to the nonprofit. The fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S., autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 children and one in 42 boys. Characteristics include social challenges, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors. This year, Blue Man Group is supporting autism programs in all of its markets, including Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York, with a minimum donation of $25,000 given to the cause. As a non-verbal, visually-stunning show, Blue Man Group serves as a great fit for all children and families.

For more information, please visit blueman.com/autismspeaks or call 1.800.blueman.

 

Fans may keep up with Blue Man Group through Twitter,Facebook, Instagram, or the hashtag #DareToLive.

While I have never gotten the chance to see the Blue Man Group in person, this sends my appreciation of them through the roof!

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Universal Orlando Resort News: 25th Anniversary Concert Series

Universal Orlando Resort Logo 25th Anniversary

Universal Orlando Resort News:

25th Anniversary Concert Series

The Universal Orlando Resort continues to celebrate their 25th Anniversary with their amazing Concert Series that returns next week.
On select nights November 14 – November 28 after you experience a full day at Universal Studios with your favorite attractions, shows, and food, the Music Plaza Stage at Universal Studios will come alive with amazing live performances from some of the hottest artists around.
Universal Orlando Resort  25th Anniversary Concert Series 2
Photo: Universal Orlando Blog

Saturday, November 14, 2015: Jason Derulo – 7:00 pm

 

Saturday, November 21, 2015: Colbie Caillat – 7:00 pm

 

Sunday, November 22, 2015: FLO RIDA – 8:00 pm

 

Friday, November 27, 2015: Carly Rae Jepsen – 8:00 pm

 

Saturday, November 28, 2015: Daughtry – 8:00 pm

Here are some things to keep in mind if you are thinking about attending Universal Orlando’s 25th Anniversary Concert Series:

  • Concerts are Included with your Universal Studios Admission
  • If being close to the stage is important to you, you will be able to queue up earlier in the day. The Team Members at the Music Plaza Stage are really helpful!
  • Event occurs rain or shine.
  • No rain checks, returns or refunds.
  • Prices, dates, times, attractions and entertainment subject to availability and may change without notice.
  • Other restrictions may apply.
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Universal Orlando Resort News: Special Taping Featuring Nick Cannon And Walk The Moon

Universal Orlando Resort Logo 25th Anniversary

Universal Orlando Resort News

Universal Orlando Resort Presents Special Taping for 2015 Nickelodeon Halo Awards, Hosted by Nick Cannon and Featuring Walk the Moon Performance on November 7, 2015

On November 7, Universal Orlando guests can be part of a special taping for the 2015 Nickelodeon HALO Awards, hosted by Nick Cannon and featuring a performance by alternative-pop band WALK THE MOON.  The concert is included in admission to Universal Studios Florida and will take place at the Music Plaza stage at 7 p.m.

Walk the Moon Performing at Universal Orlando Resort

WALK THE MOON will perform a six-song set that includes their multiformat No. 1 triple-platinum hit single, “Shut Up and Dance,” along with their new track, “Different Colors.”  Both songs are off the band’s acclaimed sophomore album, TALKING IS HARD.  WALK THE MOON consists of Nicholas Petricca (lead singer, songwriter and keyboard player), Eli Maiman (guitar, vocals), Kevin Ray (bass, vocals) and Sean Waugaman (drums, vocals).

Nickelodeon Halo Awards Universal Orlando Resort Nick Cannon

Hosted, created and executive produced by Nick Cannon, the 2015 Nickelodeon HALO Awards is a one-of-a-kind concert event that honors young leaders from across the country.  Now in its seventh year, the awards show recognizes real-life kids that are doing extraordinary things in their communities by “Helping and Leading Others” (HALO).  In addition to being awarded a grant for their organization and scholarship funds, each HALO Award honoree is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet and connect with celebrities that share their same passion for service. The 2015 Nickelodeon HALOAwards will be simulcast Sunday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT), across Nickelodeon, TeenNick, Nicktoons, TV Land, CMT, Nick.com and the Nick App.

Nickelodeon Halo Awards Universal Orlando Resort Walk the Moon

For more information about the 2015 Nickelodeon HALO Awards taping at Universal Orlando Resort and WALK THE MOON’s performance, visit blog.universalorlando.com.

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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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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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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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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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MagicSliders Watch for MagicBand

MagicSliders Watch MagicBand Accessory

While in MouseGear at Epcot, I noticed a nice item for sale by the MagicBands, a MagicSlider watch.

httpv://youtu.be/X7Cbx-Eiqqw

I’m sure there are quite a few of you out there who have checked their MagicBands for the time more than a couple times. I especially run into this challenge since I usually wear my MagicBand on my left wrist where I typically wear my watch. It seems the touch points at all the guard gates are more conducive for guests wearing bands on their left too, so a lot of times I find myself not wearing my watch.

MagicSliders Watch MagicBand Accessory

The MagicSlider is $17.95 plus tax and slides very easily onto a MagicBand like any other slider. The color matches the gray trim exactly, so the watch will coordinate with any color MagicBand you have. It is lightweight and not bulky at all. The watch has three display modes: time in hour:minute format (both 12 and 24 hour options), date with the month and day, and seconds.

MagicSliders Watch MagicBand Accessory

I tested the MagicBand with the MagicSlider watch at touch points in Epcot. It worked great without any change in how I used the MagicBand for charging without the slider. I also checked to make the band functioned at the resort gate to get in, the door to my room, and also for charging at my resort food court. I had no difficulty whatsoever using the MagicBand with the watch attached.

MagicSliders Watch MagicBand Accessory

I am happy to see this great addition to the MagicBand for its practical use. My mom and I both bought one as we’ve been saying for months and months that they needed to add a watch to the MagicBands. I hope they eventually add more fun watches like they have for MagicSliders, MagicBandits, and CoverBands.


  

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Sharing The Holiday Spirit With Christmas In The Shire

If you are looking for a new family holiday tradition, you may want to consider checking out Christmas in the Shire!

Christmas in the Shire Logo

Christmas in the Shire is the largest, private holiday display in Orlando! It has also been voted one of the top displays by local event guides.

httpv://youtu.be/2FgFtUsgdIA

The display is open daily until December 27th and includes tens of thousands of lights, over 40 trees outside, and almost 50 themed trees inside that you can view during their Open House times.

This year there are two new trees featuring a Wizard of Oz themed rainbow tree and a News Years Eve theme.

If you have been before or if you are new to the display, like myself, it is important to also know that Christmas in the Shire has moved to a new address in the Grand Cove neighborhood of Falcon Trace.

For the new address, schedule, and more information about Christmas in the Shire check out their Facebook page!

 

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Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas

Halloween on the High SeasI know Halloween was last week, but I wanted to share some of my experiences and pictures from my Disney Cruise last week. Halloween on the High Seas was a new celebration added this year by DCL to some of their fall itineraries. Having not been on a cruise before, I thought this was a cool added bonus to be able to experience Halloween on the Disney Dream.

When I boarded the ship I was so excited to see decorations right as we entered the atrium in the form of the Pumpkin Tree. I also noticed quite a few decorations on decks 3 and 4 in particular in the common areas. There were several activities spread out over the four day cruise to the Bahamas for Halloween that I wanted to see. As much as I wanted to, I could not get to them all, but the ones I went to were quite fun.

The characters were featured in Halloween costumes in the atrium for Mickey’s Mousequerade Party, which was great fun. Kids and parents alike participated as well, dressing up in costumes, trick or treating, and playing fun games and having a dance party. I also got to see the first part of the story of the Pumpkin Tree, which was quite a fun addition. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to make it back to see the second half of the story due to a conflict with show schedules, but was able to see the Pumpkin Tree in bloom. Also, each of the three rotational restaurants had really cool pumpkins carved and Halloween decorations at their entrances.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend booking a cruise for next year over the fall season with the hopes that Halloween on the High Seas will occur again on the Disney Cruise Line ships. As always, things are subject to change, but I hope they will bring back this fun celebration in the future.

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First Time Disney Cruise Planning

Photo Oct 15, 6 21 01 PMAs some of you may know, I am planning my first Disney Cruise coming up in a couple weeks. This was a very last minute trip, but I had kind of set aside the time off from the beginning of the year in hopes I’d be able to snag a cruise deal. I have literally dozens of friends and family members who have been on Disney and other cruises, but my mom and I have never been. The internet and friends have been a great source of knowledge, but I still feel like a fish out of water.

For someone who considers themself somewhat of a Walt Disney World expert, it is more than a little humbling realizing how different cruising is and how much I don’t know. What kind of cruise should I book? What stateroom type should I reserve? Should I start out with a shorter cruise since I’ve not been before? What is rotational dining? How much should I expect to spend above and beyond the cost of the cruise, taxes, tips, etc.? What are the absolute must dos on a Disney Cruise (where is Stacey when I need her)? These are just a fraction of the questions that are flying through my mind with under two weeks left to go before my cruise.

We decided on a four night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream that leaves on 10/27. I am so stoked to be going over the Halloween on the High Seas celebration to see what kind of fun extras are going to be added to the ship. I think the one tip that has been more prevalent than any other is to not miss out on brunch at Palo on my sea day. It isn’t available to book online since we booked so last minute, but we are hoping to get the chance to book it as soon as we board the Dream. I’ve found the FAQs on the Disney Cruise website to be helpful in answering a lot of my questions, but I’m still undecided on some things like whether to drive and park nearby or to have a friend drop us off and pick us up at the Port. I have been told not to bother getting off the ship in the Bahamas, but I’ve never been out of the country, so I want to go and explore at least for a few hours before heading back to the almost empty ship to explore.

I’ve looked at sample Personal Navigators from recent sailings on the Dream, so I at least have some idea of what to expect for onboard entertainment and such. One of the cooler things that is brand new that I’m looking forward to checking out is the Navigator App for Apple or Android devices using the ship’s complimentary wifi for the exclusive use of this app. They have just added new functionality where guests can use the app for messaging, I’m assuming similar to texting, to be able to communicate with others in their party while on the ship. I can’t wait to sit on our verandah with a book, or a glass of wine, watching the sun setting over the horizon.

There is so much I want to see and do on the cruise, like the stage shows, catching first run movies, pirates night, riding the Aquaduck, checking out the Rainforest Room in the spa, enjoying fantastic food, checking out activities like wine tastings, relaxing in the hot tub, and much more. It will be interesting as this is my first real vacation not going to a theme park or specifically to visit family or friends. I will try to balance my desire to do it all with the need to relax above all else. Do you have any tips for this first time cruiser? What do you wish you had known before taking your first Disney Cruise?
Photo Oct 15, 6 20 47 PM Photo Oct 15, 6 21 04 PM Photo Oct 15, 6 21 07 PM Photo Oct 15, 6 21 10 PM

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Fireworks Flashback

Yesterday marked the anniversary for both Walt Disney World‘s Magic Kingdom (43rd) and Epcot (32nd). I had the great fortune to be able to celebrate these parks’ respective 40th and 30th fireworks celebrations. For the 40th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom in 2011, a group of friends and I had a spectacular experience renting out the Grand 1 Yacht from the Grand Floridian for a unique perspective of these special fireworks. In 2012, I also had a great view of the fireworks at Epcot thanks to friends from the upper level of the Japan pavilion. To commemorate these two great parks and their anniversaries, I’d like to share some of the fantastic fireworks pictures I was able to capture.

First, a few shots of the Grand 1. If you aren’t familiar with this beautiful yacht, it is docked at the Grand Floridian and guests may reserve it for a fee for a specialty cruise scheduled in the evening for the fireworks, for a private lunch with a butler, or just a cruise around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. The yacht can accommodate up to 18 guests plus the captain and deckhand. If you get a chance to do this at any time, but especially for a special fireworks occasion like Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, I highly recommend getting a group together to experience this awesome vessel. We had the yacht for a couple hours before the fireworks, so we cruised back and forth around Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, the Contemporary, Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian before settling in to watch the Electrical Water Pageant just feet in front of us. We then were positioned almost directly in front of the train station for the fireworks with some slight drifting with the current it was a magnificent view!

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Epcot’s 30th was a fantastic combination of Illuminations and then paying homage to classic Epcot attractions and music with gorgeous fireworks.

 

 

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