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August 7, 2017

Orlando's Magical Dining Month - Part 1

Deb's Digest Blog
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It's that time of year again -- the time when a number of Orlando-area restaurants band together to offer patrons a chance to experience fine dining at a bargain price while benefiting a good cause, or causes. Yes, it's time for Orlando's Magical Dining month, and this year we get a bonus preview week, too! The eat-fest begins August 25 and ends October 1, with more Walt Disney World restaurants participating this year than ever before.

You might be wondering: Just how does Magical Dining Month work? It's really quite simple. You book a reservation at a participating restaurant, enjoy three delicious courses and pay only $35 (plus tax and tip) per person.

The Magical Dining website provides a listing of the restaurants (by area/district) and cuisine. You will be able to see the actual Magical Dining menu and also make a reservation through OpenTable.com. When booking through Visit Orlando, one dollar from each meal sold will benefit Freedom Ride and BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation.

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WHY WE LOVE MAGICAL DINING MONTH!

-- It's a deal! Who doesn't love a deal?!

-- Food! Who doesn't love food?!

-- Encourages us to get out of our rut and try new places to eat.

-- Makes a great night out.

-- Raises money for charity.

This year 20 restaurants in the Disney/Lake Buena Vista area are participating. In Part 1 of this blog I'll discuss the Walt Disney World dining participants, including those located at Disney Springs. In Part 2, I'll step outside the Disney bubble to look at other dining opportunities in Orlando.

Ok, now for the participating Disney restaurants, of which there is an interesting mix. A combination of what I would call "middle" tier dining and then "signature" dining. So I'll offer opinions on both categories.

I also have to admit, we used to dine at some of these places often, but since the wide variety of options have opened at Disney Springs, we haven't really been to the "middle tier" resort dining as much.

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Middle Tier Dining

Overall our recommendation for the restaurants in the "middle tier" is to only go if you were planning to dine there anyway. For the same $35 you can experience a signature dining experience (perhaps for the first time) and in our opinion get a much better value for your money.

The links below go to our Rate and Review Section so you can see reviews about the restaurants.


Boatwrights at Port Orleans Riverside

Grand Floridian Cafe - Grand Floridian

Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West

The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs

The Wave at the Contemporary

Out of these Linda and I agree our recommendations are The Wave and Grand Floridian Cafe.

Signature Dining

Il Mulino New York Trattoria at the WDW Swan Hotel. This is one of our favorite places to go, either for a full dinner or just sitting in the bar/lounge with a beverage and appetizer. Great opportunity to try someplace new.

Jiko the Cooking Place - Animal Kingdom Lodge - Another favorite of ours. In addition to the great food they boast one of the largest South African wine lists in the US. Be sure to check out the Magical Dining menu and if it appeals to you, go for it.

Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs - This is one of Linda's favorite places to dine. Need I say more?

Paddlefish at Disney Springs - We have not dined there so can't advise you either way.

Ravello - The Four Seasons - another place we have not dined, but we've heard good things. If the offerings on the menu appealed to me, I would try it out during Magical Dining Month, but I'll be waiting a bit longer. However, if the menu presented makes you drool then by all means go for it!

STK in Disney Springs - We are big fans of the food at STK and dined there several times. The only hesitation in recommending it is the loud music the DJ plays. "It's Not Your Father's Steakhouse" is their tag line.

Todd Englishes Blue Zoo - Another of our favorites -- I've become a fan of their Chicken Francese entree, which happens to be on the magical dining menu.

Linda and I don't think you can go wrong with any of the establishments we have been to.

TIPS

MY BIGGEST TIP: I can't stress this one enough -- Make sure to check out the menu on the Magical Dining website before making a reservation.

-- Reservations are a must!

-- For those with dietary needs, CALL the restaurant and inquire before you go.

-- Parking - If you dine at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin, use the valet parking and get your parking ticket validated by the hostess in the restaurant!

-- In our experience, sometimes we are served the full portions,as if you were a regular diner, and sometimes it is a smaller portion. No matter which, we have always felt like we got our money's worth!

BOTTOM LINE: Orlando Magical Dining month provides a great opportunity for you to explore new dining experiences. Linda and I try to use it at least twice each year to discover new favorites! Leave a comment below about your experience!

Next blog I'll be talking about the restaurants outside the Disney Bubble... check back!

The Magical Dining Website has an FAQ section you should read!

July 26, 2017

Updates for 2017 Holiday Season at Walt Disney World

Deb's Digest Blog

Walt Disney World released a few details on the upcoming holiday season at a special media preview.

Let's start with Disney Springs! The Holiday Tree Trail will return with even more trees than before. The trees are 10' and 12' tall with a 10' backdrop for a guest photo op.

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A new Disney Springs Logo Tree will feature custom ornaments for Disney Springs Operating Participants. This will be followed by trees themed to variety of characters and Disney films: Mickey and Minnie, Pluto (devoted to pets), Sleeping Beauty (new), Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog, the Little Mermaid, Frozen, Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio (new), 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia (new), Villains, Lilo and Stitch, Dumbo (new), Tangled, Robin Hood (new), Peter Pan (new), Jungle Book, Muppets, Mulan, Mary Poppins, and Alice in Wonderland.

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Santa's Chalet will be located at the end of the trail with snow and music. Each tree will have a signature ornament and as you exit the trail, there will be one final tree displaying what's at the Disney Store for the holidays.

At Disney's Hollywood Studios, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! returns on November 7. The show will be updated with a few different sequences and new characters, along with more integration of fireworks.

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There will also be one or two additional "holiday" offerings at the Studios this year, details will be announced soon!

Moving now to Epcot. The Candlelight Processional is the premiere holiday show with celebrity narrators. This year, Disney is making an extra effort to find celebrity talent that speaks to all of our diversity. Already announced are Trace Adkins, CCH Pounder, Jaci Velasquez and favorite Neil Patrick Harris.

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Joyful! A Gospel Celebration is also returning.

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In addition, the Mexico pavilion will feature an enhanced holiday celebration titled La Posada, with authentic Mexican with mariachi, dancers and music similar to a festival.

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Let's go now to the Magic Kingdom!

NEW this year: The Main Street Trolley will have a new Christmas show, and the Move It Shake It Dance and Play it! parade will have a holiday finale. A Frozen Holiday Wish will return once a night on non-party nights and twice a night during the Party. Usually you have to attend one of the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties to see the special shows and happenings exclusive to the event. This year all guests will see the special entertainment during the week of Christmas.

Last, but not least, is all the new holiday merchandise coming to Walt Disney World later this year including new Dooney and Bourke bags, many new ornaments, themed stockings and much more.. Here is Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager to tell you more:

First Look -- Disney's Minnie Van Service

Deb's Digest Blog
Disney's Minnie Van Service

At the 2017 D23 Expo in July, Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced: “Since we’re all about exceeding guest expectations and making every aspect of your vacation uniquely Disney, we’re creating a new point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do.” The Minnie vehicles will take you everywhere you want to go at the Walt Disney World Resort, and you’ll ride in Minnie’s classic style.

Disney's Minnie Van Service

A Disney Cast Member will be your driver.

Disney's Minnie Van Service


If this type of transportation service sounds familiar to you, it is the Disney version of Uber and Lyft transportation services, but limited to Walt Disney World property.

Disney's Minnie Van Service


Disney's Minnie Van Service is now in "soft opening" at select resorts. At this time the cost is a flat fee of $20 per trip -- drivers do not accept gratuities. The vehicles are 2017 Chevy Traverse vans and each seats six.

Disney's Minnie Van Service

There are one or two child car seats available in each vehicle.

Disney's Minnie Van Service


When asked about Disney touches inside of the Minnie Vans, the Cast Members smiled and politely did not answer the question.

Disney's Minnie Van Service
Disney's Minnie Van Service


The hours of operation have not yet been set, but currently the service seems to be available beginning around 6:30 a.m. and through the evening. An app to order your car is coming -- once the service is fully launched you'll be able to summon the car via an app -- details as they are released.

June 26, 2017

Morimoto Asia Summer Forbidden Lounge Late-Night Offerings

Deb's Digest Blog

by AllEars.Net's Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth

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Morimoto Asia is a beautiful two-story restaurant in Disney Springs with a variety of options for your dining pleasure. There is the full-service dining room on the first floor (though there are some full-service tables on the second floor). Also on the main floor is one of the two bars. Upstairs not only has a sushi bar, but the Forbidden Lounge, a wonderful place to hang out and relax with craft cocktails and great food.

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Morimoto Asia recently debuted its new summer additions to the Forbidden Lounge late-night menu. We were able to sample the new cocktails and also the late-night food offerings. (Be sure to read my recent blog "Noshing at Disney Springs," which includes the Forbidden Lounge.)

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Here is my take on the new craft cocktail offerings:

Here are Linda's thoughts on the new craft cocktails:

I tasted all five of the new beverage offerings, and I think there is one that will appeal to just about every palate. All were refreshing and had a different twist on a classic cocktail. There were sweet, smoky, citrusy, tart and aromatic offerings. I do not particularly care for sweet or smoky drinks, so while the Yuzu Sidecar, Kunsei Smoked Coconut, Kyuuri Gin Blossom Martini and Watermelon Soyokaz were enjoyable, my favorite was the Tequila and Tonic. This was very refreshing, aromatic, and had a hint of citrus. Plus, there was no strong alcohol flavor.

A number of new small plates/appetizers created by Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinaga were also introduced for late-night noshing in the Forbidden Lounge.

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Since I have a rather "limited" palate, I asked Linda to elaborate on the food offerings, each of which costs $8.

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Next up were the new food items for summer. My two favorites were the Blistered Shishito Peppers served with Wasabi Creme Fraiche and Yuzu Salt. The peppers were full of flavor, not very spicy, although every once in a while one had a bit more heat. The peppers went really well with my Tequlia and Tonic. I did not try the wasabi creme fraiche. I thought they tasted just fine on their own.

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My other favorite was the Shichime Spiced Edamame. These were prepared with sesame and Japanese 7 spice. Now, these had much more heat than the Blistered Shishito Peppers. Again, very flavorful and a nice change from plain edamame with salt. Again, I enjoyed them with my beverage, but I think a nice cold beer also would go nicely with this dish.

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The Kushiyaki “grilled on a stick” was chicken yakitori, pork skirt steak and miso marinated black cod. The chicken and pork were good but OH MY! The black cod was out of this world. It was light, flaky and melted in my mouth.

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The other two dishes offered have a bit more substance to them. The Beef Bulgogi Nachos were served with wonton chips, thinly sliced soy-marinated beef short ribs, gochujang sauce, jalapenos, cheese and scallions. This dish had some heat, the beef was very tender and the wonton chips held their crunch. It was also a bit messy to eat, but then so are regular nachos.

The Chashu Pork Quesadilla had pulled, braised pork belly, caramelized red onions, spicy mayo and blended cheese. I am not a big fan of pork belly because it can be on the fatty side. This quesadilla was delicious, but I found the pork to be a bit too fatty for my taste.

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Linda's plate of samples:

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We are both fans of the Forbidden Lounge and were excited to have the opportunity to try out the new offerings.

Linda adds: I have always enjoyed the Forbidden Lounge upstairs at Morimoto Asia. The craft cocktails are fun, the “bar food” usually changes with the season, the background music is nice and the bartenders are friendly and attentive. I hope you will enjoy your experience as well.

DISCLAIMER: AllEars.Net was invited by Morimoto Asia to try out its new summer offerings in terms of bar foods and cocktails. Our opinions are our own. Trust us -- we spend plenty of our own money there!





June 19, 2017

Noshing Night at Disney Springs

Deb's Digest Blog
Disney Springs Signage


Disney Springs
really has undergone an amazing transformation. We have probably spent more time there in the last couple years than we had the 10 prior. Lots of great places to eat with a variety of tastes and prices. In fact, for several months we have been talking about noshing our way around Disney Springs.

We were staying at a Disney Springs hotel recently, so we decided it was time for Noshing Night! Our criteria was to sit at the bar and order a beverage and appetizer. A progressive dinner without dessert. One important note -- Linda enjoys craft cocktails and I only drink wine (mostly red). Both of us were certain to be drinking lots of water and most of the bartenders were refilling our glasses without asking.

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The sky was clear on this Friday evening as the week of rain had finally ended for a few hours. Still, it was a hot June evening.

Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine


We began at Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar, one of our favorite places at Disney Springs.

The Homecoming bar has two options, you can either sit inside the restaurant (in air conditioning) or outside. We spotted two seats inside and sat down. Bartender Doug came over and introduced himself, keeping us happy for the duration.

Homecoming Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar


Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar


We perused the beverage menu. Linda feels that Homecoming has one of the best craft cocktail bars in Disney Springs. She chose the Cucumber Cooler, which consisted of Tito's handmade vodka with lime juice, simple syrup and crisp cucumber slices ($11). Linda asked for it very easy on the simple syrup and it came out perfectly. I actually might have enjoyed it on the rocks.

I chose an Alexander Valley Merlot ($12), although I would have preferred a nice crisp white -- but this is a craft cocktail bar, not a wine bar (Winebar George, we can't wait for you to open!)

Cucumber Cooler Art Smith's Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine


Drinks having arrived, it was time for food. We ordered the Church Lady Deviled Eggs ($10 for 6). OMG! We order them every visit! I recall the first time we ate there I was thinking, "Why pay so much money for a deviled egg?" But you have to try them! Then you'll understand.

Church Lady Deviled Eggs

Linda then decided some of the Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits ($6) would be great, especially since we were drinking. Another OMG! These were quite different than the ones we had here previously. Our barkeep told us they had changed them and added cream cheese to fluff them up. They were outstanding! Who takes biscuits home in their doggie bag? We did!

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We chatted, noshed and sipped there for about an hour, paid our bill and left to find another spot.

Rating: Food 5*, Service 5*, Ambiance 5*.

As we walked outside, we talked about where to head next. Linda had a hankering for oysters so off to the Boathouse we went.

Boathouse at Disney Springs

As you might imagine, it was quite crowded over there. There is the Captain's Raw Bar inside, just as you enter the restaurant, but we find it too loud to talk so we opt for the dockside bar.

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Boathouse at Disney Springs


The only outdoor seating was in direct sun, so we walked around a bit in hopes something in the shade would free up. Sure enough, a table for two opened up at the outside bar with our names on it.

Boathouse at Disney Springs

Linda placed an order for oysters along with a Blue Moon Beer. I was still feeling full from Homecoming and wanted something cool and refreshing so I ordered a glass of prosecco.

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Blue Moon Beer and Proseco

We have enjoyed beautiful sunsets at this location before, but tonight that wasn't meant to be. Instead we enjoyed watching folks in the Amphicars. In fact, we even got to see one of them being towed back in due to technical problems. Oops.

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After we had been there about an hour, we felt the temperature had gotten increasingly hotter. Soon we were both feeling sluggish. Time to walk!

Rating: Food 5*, Service 3.5*, Ambiance 5*.

We saw lots of different types of entertainment around Disney Springs, which is always fun. I really like that they have enhanced this aspect since the total refurbishment of the old Downtown Disney. We enjoyed the strolling violinist, strolling piano and singer and a Living Statue. It was very entertaining to watch folks who wanted to get their photo with the Living Statue, but were not exactly sure how to approach him. We even had fun checking out the Lego displays.

Disney Springs Entertainment
Disney Parks Legos
Disney Springs Entertainment

Our next and what turned out to be our final stop -- Morimoto Asia.

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The downstairs bar was very noisy and hectic so we made our way to the upstairs bar. Ah, the air conditioning felt so very good and soon we both perked up again.

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

Linda loves the Manhattan East here so she ordered one. It is made of hiro sake, Makers Mark bourbon, canton liqueur, and orange bitters ($14).

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs Manhattan East Cocktail

To no one's surprise I ordered another glass of red wine, Antinori Santa Cristina Chianti, Tuscany ($12). I have found this chianti works really well with Morimoto's ribs!

Our two servers, Matthew and Junko, took most excellent care of us. Linda decided the Manhattan that Junko made was the BEST Manhattan East she has had there!

I ordered an appetizer portion of the spare ribs (pork ribs, cilantro, hoisin sweet chili glaze) for $14. One of my favorites -- three tender and crispy ribs. Be careful of the red threads on top of the ribs, though. They are VERY hot!

Spare Ribs Appetizer Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

Linda got a Spicy Tuna Roll with white rice (you have a choice between white and brown). The tuna, with spicy mayo and scallion, is $13.

Spicy Tuna Roll Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

We were having lots of fun talking with the bartenders and soaking up the relaxing atmosphere. Love the background music upstairs -- smooth jazz or New Age, not sure which.

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs
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Rating: Food 5*, Service 5*, Ambiance 5*.

Around 9 p.m. we decided to call it a night and walked back to our Disney Springs hotel.

The food of the night award goes to Homecoming! The server of the night award goes to Matthew at Morimoto Asia.

You might be asking yourself, "What did all this cost?" The food itself without tax/tip came to $73, divided by two that made it about $37 each. The alcohol without tax/tip came to $78.50, so just under $40 each. All totaled including tip, tax and tags our total price was $185.75.

There were a few discounts available. Homecoming offers the Tables in Wonderland 20 percent discount; the Boathouse offers 10 percent with the Annual Passport (food only), and Morimoto Asia takes the Tables in Wonderland 20 percent.

We certainly won't be doing this often, given the price tag, but it made for a perfect evening out!
It was wonderful and we hope to do it again when the weather turns cooler.

Have you enjoyed a night of noshing at Disney Springs? Where did you go? Tell us about it in the comments.






November 14, 2016

Temporary Parking Change at Kidani Village Animal Kingdom Lodge

Deb's Digest Blog

This past weekend I was at a guest at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was quite surprised that the "short term parking" area at Kidani Village was closed and blocked off. This parking area has always been convenient for check-in parking or getting something from Johari Treasures which has groceries and sundries.

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Cast members told me this is "temporary" but gave no dates for how long this will be in place. I was informed that if you are checking in, tell the Valet and they will hold your car for 30 minutes for "free". After 30 minutes your car will be automatically valeted and you will incur a charge. The reason I was given for this change is that people were abusing the "short term parking" area.

The self-parking alternative is the underground parking garage. While there is a huge sign indicating Elevators to Lobby, unfortunately there are only 2 parking spaces in that immediate area. The other spaces are reserved for WDW Official Vehicles. The next closest parking area would be the Timon area.

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November 10, 2016

Vivoli Gelato - Hidden Gem at Disney Springs

Deb's Digest Blog
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Did you know you can get real Italian Gelato in Disney Springs?? Well, you can and it's wonderful!

Vivoli Gelato is located in The Landing section of Disney Springs, diagonally across from the Hangar Bar. You may not have even realized it is there because the building and signage is understated. However, bright orange tables and chairs recently have been added outside for guests to relax and enjoy their Italian goodies.

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Founded in 1932 by Raphael and his two brothers, Vivoli Gelateria started out as a dairy. At that time, it was not easy to find raw materials such as milk, eggs and sugar, and there were no gelato machines and freezers. After World War II, technology enabled the brothers to follow their passion and produce gelato every day –- a far cry from the early recipes that relied on barrels filled with ice and snow from the nearby mountains to keep their concoctions frozen.

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Silvana Vivoli, the granddaughter of Raphael Vivoli, one of the company’s founders, was recently at the Vivoli Gelato to introduce four new fall flavors: Tiramisu, Apple Pie, Pecan, and Pumpkin.

It was clear at the start that Silvana Vivoli is quite passionate about her family business. She stressed to us how important it has been to remain dedicated to creating pure gelati and sorbetti with fresh, high quality ingredients and family crafted recipes. There is nothing artificial! The store uses local and seasonal products, with cocoa powder, hazelnut and pistachio imported from Italy.

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As you peruse the showcase of gelatos you will notice both white and blue spoons. The blue spoons represent items that are vegan.

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I had observed while in Italy that some gelato stores (and also those in the U.S.) have mounds of gelato in their showcases and in others, the gelato is flat. She explained it has a lot to do with temperature and quality. "If you see big mountains, no," she said. If the colors are flashy, no again. "Most people are attracted by bright color and form, but that is gelato you should stay away from." This was the same advice my Italian Street Food Guide gave us in Rome.

You will also find an assortment of pastries at Vivoli Gelato. These are made by Chef Vincenzo, the pastry chef at Tutto Italia at the Italy Pavilion in EPCOT.

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Stop by Vivoli Gelato on your next visit to Disney Springs. You can even ask for a sample spoon of the gelato or sorbet.

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DISCLAIMER: I was invited to Vivoli Gelato to sample the fall flavors and meet Silvana. This did not affect this blog; my opinions are my own. In fact, after spending time in Italy last year, I got to enjoy the real Italian Gelato and this is it!

August 24, 2016

Walt Disney World - End of Summer Roundup

Deb's Digest Blog

Summer is nearing an end as the kids are heading back to school. Summer weather is still in full swing in Central Florida! If you are in town, here are some events happening in the next couple weeks you may want to be aware of.

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SANDTASTIC WEEKENDS -- August 26-28 and September 2-4
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort have a brand new event called Sandtastic Weekends! It is free and open to the public! A gigantic sand sculpture will be created out of 100 tons of sand. Lots of activities for all ages. Get the details HERE

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The Great Irish Hooley returns to Raglan Road September 2-5th!

New live music and dance entertainment, fresh menu creations and plenty of craft beer and cocktail options are on tap. To celebrate the Hooley’s fifth year, Raglan Road will present a brand-new, 90-minute live show of music and dance – The Rhythms of Raglan – produced in Ireland, exported to Raglan Road and directed by David Hayes (Riverdance, “The Voice” Ireland edition) with guest choreographers including Michael Donellan (Lord of the Dance). The music festival’s multi-band lineup will feature headliner Screaming Orphans and other bands popular on the festival circuit. I have attended the Hooley in the past and it is lots of fun!

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Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party Begins September 2nd!

It's a hard ticketed event at the Magic Kingdom featuring HalloWishes Fireworks, the Boo to You Parade, and the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular. Be sure to enjoy these 3 happennings instead of riding attractions. You won't see them any time except during the Halloween Party!

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Club Villain Reopens September 2nd at Disney's Hollywood Studios!

Club Villain at Sunset Showcase at Disney's Hollywood Studios will return on Friday and Saturday nights from September 2 to October 29, and on Halloween night, October 31. The specially ticketed event features performances, food, cocktails and encounters with some of the greatest Disney villains. There is a special Tables in Wonderland discount available.

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The Jungle Book Alive with Magic Show ends September 5th!

This limited run show took over when the Rivers of Light was unable to open due to technical difficulties. It has Indian dancers, musicians and music highlighted by water screens showing highlights from the Jungle Book movie. Be sure to get a FastPass+!

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The 2017 Mom's Panel Selection Process Begins September 7th!

Calling all Mom's Panel wannabees! Get ready, get set, type! The application process for the 2017 Disney Parks Moms Panel begins at noon EST Wednesday, Sept. 7, and those interested have until noon EST Wednesday, Sept. 14, to express their interest.

March 24, 2016

Review - Diamond Horseshoe All You Care to Eat Dinner

Deb's Digest Blog
Diamond Horseshoe - Magic Kingdom

Over the last few years, the Diamond Horseshoe in the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square has been open during peak times with limited selection counter service lunch serving a basic BBQ chicken sandwich, turkey sandwich and a chef's salad.

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As of March 13, 2016, the Diamond Horseshoe is now open for an "all you care to eat" table service lunch and dinner. I tried this new dinner recently with my cousin, Kathie.

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Kathie had a 4:50 p.m. reservation and we arrived a few minutes early. We were greeted in a prompt and friendly fashion and were told that we'd be seated in a few moments. There are some chairs to the right of the podium, but our wait was not long at all (about five minutes).

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Our server, Randi, came over right away to take our beverage orders and explain how the meal works. Dinner begins with a salad and cornbread brought for the table to share. There are three entrees offered, and you begin by choosing one. After that, you may order more of the same entree or either or both of the remaining two options. After that, it's dessert time.

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If the place-setting looks familiar, it's the same one used at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Honestly, the food, while not identical, reminded me of dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern as well.

Soon after we placed our drink orders, our Frontier Salad arrived. It consists of tossed greens, tomatoes (on the side of the plate), onions (on top of the salad), roasted corn and cornbread croutons. The dressing is a house-made chipotle ranch. Don't let the chipotle scare you off. It was a flavorful dressing, but didn't have the typical chipotle kick to it that some folks dislike. We both enjoyed the salad and even asked for a second serving!

Frontier Salad Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

The cornbread is good and is served with a side of sweet whipped butter.

Corn Bread Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

We each decided to order the turkey to begin the meal. I asked the server if we could receive smaller portions since we wanted to taste everything, but everything is the same size.

Of course, it really would have helped if I read the menu carefully. I have no idea why, but I was expecting sliced turkey. Imagine my surprise when BBQ turkey with jalapenos showed up! The turkey sat on top of a slice of cornbread and came with string beans.

BBQ Pulled Turkey Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

After pulling off the peppers, I started to eat the BBQ. I love BBQ, but this just tasted strange to me. Maybe it's because I was expecting sliced turkey, but I just couldn't wrap my head around turkey BBQ and didn't really care for it. Kathie liked it well enough, but agreed that it was odd.

Next, we ordered the spit-roasted ham with country beans and seasonal vegetables (again green beans). Again, I thought the dish was OK, but nothing special. Kathie, on the other hand, thought it was good.

Spit-Roasted Ham Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

Finally we tried the stewed beef with mashed potatoes and, again, green beans. This was the winner to me, except it really wasn't a stew -- more like a pot roast. It was VERY tender and had some flavor to it. I ate almost the entire portion of the beef.

Stewed Beef Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

By this time we were both quite full and again commented how we wished the entrees had been available in smaller portions. From what we could see glancing around the room, the kids' portions appeared to be almost the same size.

There are two items for dessert, the Campfire Brownie and the Apple Tart. If you've eaten at Liberty Tree Tavern you've had the Apple Tart. The brownie was dense chocolate with a thin layer of toasted marshmallow on top, not exceptional. We both preferred the Apple Tart and found it quite tasty.

Campfire Brownie and Apple Tart Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

While there is no designated kids' menu, chicken tenders and grilled cheese are available.

Chicken Tenders Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom

So what did we think?

If you are looking for basic, plentiful food, this is certainly a viable option. However, if you are like me, the Diamond Horseshoe might not be your best choice. Except for the beef I found the food average. It was a great place to escape from the packed Magic Kingdom and the air conditioning was nice and cool. As I mentioned before, our service was excellent. But I typically don't eat enough food to justify the cost of "all you can eat" dinner.

Speaking of cost, the bill for the two of us came to $83.97 ($33 per person plus tax and gratuity). Soft drinks, tea, coffee and milk were included. My Tables in Wonderland card was accepted for a 20 percent discount. (Kids ages 3-9 cost $19 plus tax and gratuity.)

Reservations are available for dates now to May 30th.

For a more traditional turkey dinner, you can dine at Liberty Tree Tavern for about the same price (depending on the season). Tony's Town Square will also run you about the same price (unless you order the steak.) The less expensive full service option is the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street (their food is good!). Your other full service/all-you-can-eat/buffet options in the Magic Kingdom are much more expensive: Be Our Guest, Cinderella's Royal Table and Crystal Palace. You can also dine at the new Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, but the food there is a bit more exotic.

So where would I go for dinner if I was spending time in the Magic Kingdom? If I planned far enough ahead for a reservation I'd go to the Plaza Restaurant. Otherwise, I'd probably head over to Columbia Harbour House for a much less expensive counter-service meal.

What are your thoughts on the full-service dining options in the Magic Kingdom?

March 3, 2016

Opening Day Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Deb's Digest Blog
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March 2nd was the opening day for the 2016 Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot! I arrived about 8:30 to a fairly long line of folks. It was a cloudy day but the sun was predicted to break through the clouds mid morning.

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The turnstyles opened about 8:45 and it seemed most everyone was headed either to Test Track or the Pin Station for LE pins. Since I was not interested in either, I began my tour around Future World to see what gardens and topiaries I could find.


The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Passport is back with expanded checklists so you don't miss anything! I highly recommend you get a Passport as it contains all the important information in one place. And if you like to collect "stamps" each location has their own themed mark to include in your passport.

The highlight for me was the entrance topiaries of Daisy Duck greeting guests to Fresh Epcot and on the back side a great grouping of Donald Duck and his nephews! I really think this display is first rate and a wonderful way to start my day at the Flower and Garden Festival.

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I had my first glimpse at a Pin Trading Cast member using a "trash can". I thought that was creative. No idea if this is new, I just haven't see it or what.

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On the south side of Spaceship Earth was this year's new display called Floral Sun Garden with yellow sunbursts. While pretty, I have gotten used to this area being a color full topiary display. According to the Press Release, this area "will sprout in a new Future World topiary garden featuring Minnie Mouse and Pluto." I 'll check it out later in the festival.

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As a huge fan of our National Parks, I was very happy to learn that there would be a display honoring the 100th anniversary of the parks. Ranger Mickey is all set with his binoculars and camera bag. I loved the detail and color arrangements. It was interesting that as I stood there taking photos, a mother brought her sons over to show them "Indiana Jones"!! She seemed excited and so did the kids.

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On the opposite side facing World Show Case Chip and Dale were out having fun by a small waterfall. Looks like Chip is ready for lunch!

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Over to the West side of Innoventions the Butterfly House looked fairly empty (usually its packed) so I went in. I didn't see anything new or different and being so early in the festival the chrysalises were not yet emerging. Also due to the cloudy cool morning, there were no butterflies flitting about.

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Happy to see Fantasia Mickey along with the broom water buckets, the dancing hippo and other related topiaries return.

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The Pollinator Paradise Garden was back. My favorite part of these are the seed created pollinators :) Take some time to check out the garden destinations (page 8 in the Passport) as they are not only beautiful to look at but you might learn something too (I did :)

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The new Edible Garden by the Land was colorful highlighting hibiscus and other edible plants.

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The Kids Play Area that had been Monsters Inc themed the last few years is all changed this year with new play equipment and a new theme -- Harmony Gardens Musical Playgrounds. Lots of interactive displays for kids (ok, so a few adults too) creating musical sounds with drums and a variety of xylophones. Lots of children running here and there. Returning is the nice shaded tent area for adults to watch their kids!

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Cactus Road Rally is back with it's play area - great photo ops with both Mater and Lightening McQueen.

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As you walk around World Showcase there are many topiaries to see. Some have moved to new locations, such as Winnie the Pooh characters and Anna and Elsa.

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In terms of merchandise, there are lots of fun Figment items including t-shirts and mugs.

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Even a cute Stitch shirt:

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We had lunch at the popular Smokehouse in the American Adventure area.

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I tried 3 of the new items and overall they were good.

Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad (GF) $6.50 ddp snack -- The ribs were a bit light in meat but tasty. The roasted corn salad was tasty.

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Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapenos $5.75 ddp snack -- The hash was tasty (although I removed the Jalapenos) Beef Brisket had two meaty pieces and 2 fatty pieces. I don't care for the fatty parts of meat so if you do, you might really like this item!

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Finally the Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans (V) $3.75 ddp snack - The new Warm Chocolate Cake was moist and quite tasty.

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I didn't' try any other foods and and about this time the park was getting very crowded so I headed out, stopping first to get my Annual Passholder print.

Annual Passholders should be sure to get their complimentary Ducky Williams artwork. This month the print features Donald. Future months will be Goofy and Mickey. The location is behind Club Cool and there is signage.

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Of course there is MUCH MUCH more see and experience at the Flower and Garden Festival. In fact, I'll be back in a couple days!

I have lots more photos to get on AllEars. Be sure to visit our comprehensive Flower and Garden section! I have lots more photos to get online too!


February 7, 2015

Tree of Life New Roots, Bird and Animal Carvings!

Deb's Digest Blog

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This morning some of the walls at Animal Kingdom were removed. Behold, there are new roots with bird and animal carvings from the Tree of Life! The entire area looks great and it is so nice to see the open spaces once again. I'll have more photos later, but for now, enjoy the new carvings in the video below.

January 1, 2015

Looking Back at 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Deb's Digest Blog

Last year at this time, I did a similar Look Back at 2013 and Look Ahead to 2014.

For this - Look Back at 2014 and Look Ahead to 2015, fellow AllEars colleague Deb Koma and I sat down to do some reflecting and projecting on what was and what may be............

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

September 6, 2014

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - Report

Deb's Digest Blog

We went to the very first party of the year on September 1, 2014. What a blessing! This party was definitely NOT crowded and was reminiscent of the old E-Ticket nights (circa 2000) with low lines and manageable crowds. The only downside, if there was one, was the heat and humidity and continual "sauna" feel the entire night.

The Cast Members were dressed in their regular party outfits. We had purchased tickets on-line and therefore had a printed ticket with bar code. When we used it to enter the event after 4pm, the Cast Member took our copy and gave us a wrist band. I didn't really think anything of it until near the end of the night, when this caused issues getting my special Halloween Sorcerers Card.

Jack and Sally's Meet and Greet was first on my list. Everyone was excited about meeting them and their line stayed long most of the evening until well after the fireworks.


After this we split up and some held spots for Mickey's Boo to You Parade and myself and others went to the Castle for the Villains Mix and Mingle show (without the Mingle) . It was cute but oh so short!!! I felt like it had just started and it ended.

TIP: See the Villains Castle show after dark! It was still light out during the first show and I missed most of the castle projections.

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After the show it was back down Main Street to wait for the 8:15pm parade. Again, I must say how nice it was not to be crammed in with people given the heat.

Here's the first ride of the Headless Horseman for the 2014 Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party season:

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There were changes to this year's Mickey's Boo to You Parade. Most notably is the addition of Vanellope and Wreck-it Ralph (Wreck-it Ralph movie).

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It is one of my favorite parades in the Magic Kingdom and it is lots of fun to watch!

We decided to not wander down Main Street with everyone to see the Fireworks so we walked around the park to see who was out Meeting and Greeting. Imagine my surprise when I stopped in Adventureland to see not only Terk and Jane, but also Tarzan! Wait was about 10 minutes or so, I got in line. Unfortunately, Tarzan had to leave before it was my turn, but it was neat to see him interact with folks, especially the kids.

We continued over to the Diamond Horseshoe, known on party nights as Club Villain. From 7:00pm to midnight various villains dance with guests - mostly kids but a few adults were also dancing.

GOOD TO KNOW: Be aware it is dark and foggy with lots of neon lights in the dance party.

Soon it was Fireworks time! Standing in Liberty Square between the Liberty Bell and Liberty Tree Tavern but on the water side, was a nice place to watch. Not crowded and a decent view of everything except the Castle projections. Music was loud and clear.

TIP: There are good fireworks viewing areas in Liberty Square and New Fantasyland if you want to avoid the huge crowds on Main Street. Just remember no Castle projections.

Off to the Haunted Mansion to see if Madame Carlotta was wandering the grounds. She was and even summoned Judy Garland!

As we walked through Fantasyland, we noticed most rides had small wait times, even Peter Pan. The Seven Dwarfs were all out meeting guests and even that line was only about 30 minutes, How cool to get your photo with all 7 of them.

Checked out Tomorrowland, again barely a 10 minute wait for attractions. Just past the Buzz Lightyear entrance, Buzz and Lotso the Bear were having Meet and Greets. I wanted to see Lotso! As you'll see in the video, he indicated to me he was sorry he was such a bad guy in Toy Story 3.

By this time it was getting late and the heat and humidity were getting to us. As we got to Main Street we realized it would soon be time for the 2nd performance of Mickey's Boo to You Parade. The area near Town Square and City Hall had lots of front row room to watch the parade and so we stopped to enjoy it again.

While waiting for the Parade I went over the the Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom area to obtain my special Halloween Card. I'll spare you the long details but several Cast Members and 10+ minutes later I still didn't have my card. The main issue had to do with not having my ticket (remember they Cast Member took it when we entered the park) or my Magic Band, even though I had my party wrist band. I didn't wear my Magic Band because of the heat. Eventually I did get my card.. but it shouldn't have been so hard.

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We did not do any candy Trick or Treating but saw numerous stations set up. Check your guide map for locations.

TIP: The nice thing was there were signs to say what type of candy was being distributed at that location, like Crasins or Werthers, etc.

It was nice to see Cast Members being very diligent about making sure guests had their party Wrist Bands on before allowing them in many areas/attractions.

All in all we got our monies worth for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. The huge thing for us was the low crowds.

We opted not to do the $99 Villains Soiree. While I was disappointed to not be able to see Maleficent or the Queen, I didn't feel the cost was worth it for us. Plus, since we were going to the first party we were hoping it wouldn't be too crowded. It is all about priorities and what is most important to you. I am interested to hear from those of you who have!

I am sure as it gets closer to Halloween, the party will get progressively more crowded. Keep in mind, at this time, Halloween Night is SOLD OUT.


Tell us what YOU thought about the Party!!

May 23, 2014

Rock Your Disney Side 24 Hour Event - Part 1

Deb's Digest Blog

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Dateline May 23rd - Bright and early this morning Walt Disney World began its third 24-hour event at the Magic Kingdom called "Rock Your Disney Side".

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Mickey, Minnie and Donald joined in the early morning fun in their PJs.

The Fire Chief, Main Street Trolley Singers, Heroes and Villians, Mickey and Minnie and the Family of the Day were on the Main Street Train Station Platform just before 6am to start everything off.

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After the opening we interviewed Steven Miller who is the Marketing Manager who showed us the special merchandise and treats that are available for the Rock Your Disney Side Event!

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Next up we visited Tinker Bell in her new location in the Town Square Theatre on Main Street.
She was in a great mood despite the fact that Terrence woke her up super early!

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From there we headed over to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which was in soft opening mode!

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Here's a short video of me on the train this morning!

Here is our full video with spoilers:

And, as a special treat for waiting all day for the blog, here is the Celebrate the Magic parade with Hercules!

By now the sun was coming out in full force and I headed back home to get out of the sun and rest for tonight.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 (probably on Saturday :)

February 12, 2014

Festival of Fantasy Parade Details Revealed

Deb's Digest Blog

Today I had the opportunity to preview some of the brand new costumes and brand new floats that are part of Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade.

Video of the Costumes

Video of the Mickey Airship, Peter Pan and Little Mermaid Floats

Float by Float Line Up:


THE PRINCESS GARDEN
- the pageantry of Disney princesses. Cinderella, Bell, Tiana and their princes will ride in a garden of topiaries, woodland creatures and more. This 50- foot long parade will be capped off with Frozen's Anna and Elsa!

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TANGLED - a massive long ship on the high seas featuring Flynn Rider and Rapunzel. This 36 foot long float includes some dastardly thugs!

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THE LITTLE MERMAID - Ariel, and her friends, including Sebastian, are part of the seashell music jubilee. Performers include: Lion Fish, Coral Fish, Seashell and Sea Horse.


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PETER PAN - The Jolly Roger pirate ship, Peter Pan and Wendy, the Lost Boys, Skull Rock, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook will all be part of this unique float.

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BRAVE - The bagpipe shaped float announces the arrival of Merida. Scottish dancers will step to the songs of the highlands.


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SLEEPING BEAUTY- highlighted by the Steampunnk-inspired dragon, Prince Phillip, raven dancers, good fairies and thorn-inspired stilt performers perform on and around the 53 foot long float

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FINALE AND MICKEY'S AIRSHIP - the parade's finale is this 90 foot long "train" of great Disney characters including Pinocchio, Dumbo, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Mad Hatter all in festive colors. There are dancing hippos, bubble girls (celebrating Storybook Circus), Pegasus horses and Mickey and Minnie atop the airship.

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December 18, 2013

Magic Kingdom Walk About - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Testing Video

Deb's Digest Blog

December 17th was a picture perfect beautiful weather day so I headed to the Magic Kingdom. (Click on any photo for a larger image)

It was great to see the Christmas tree on Main Street. It wasn't up on my last Magic Kingdom visit in late November due to upcoming Christmas Day Show taping.

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With the beautiful blue sky, all the holiday decorations just popped. It wasn't too crowded in the park during the morning, since Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was in the evening.

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Work continues on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Many workers were on the mountain doing exterior work. I'm guessing there was plenty of action inside as well :) The Vultures from Snow Whites Scary Adventures are in place. It will be interesting to see how they fit in with the landscape.

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In Liberty Square you could still purchase Halloween Mickey popcorn buckets are well as Santa Mickey ones!

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Beautiful view of Big Thunder Mountain

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It seemed as though a number of carts were being set up around the park for the holiday crowds. Here is one right next to Westward Ho Refreshments.

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Tortuga Tavern was open with their regular "taco" menu, not the holiday buffet.

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I finally got to experience the Jingle Jungle Cruise. Let me just say I was totally UNDERwhelmed.

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More photos of the Jingle Jungle Cruise HERE

The decorations were sparse.... basically only in the queue.....

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.....and if you used FastPass you missed one of the larger holiday displays.

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The boat names were changed, but only one side of the sign was altered.

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Our Skipper, Allie, was absolutely great and she definitely made the cruise!!!! But other than her, I was like, really?! It just seemed like it was thrown together to say there was something "new".

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Before heading out, I went up the train station to get a view of Main Street. It really is beautiful!

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After leaving the Magic Kingdom I went to the Grand Floridian and caught the Gingerbread House making demo and then wandered to the Polynesian to check out the holiday decor.

Here is a tour of the Polynesian Holiday Decor:

August 30, 2013

2014 Guide Books at Hitting the Shelves

Deb's Digest Blog

It's that time of year again.... Summer is ending, most family vacations are over, the kids are back in school, and the 2014 Walt Disney World Guide Books are starting to arrive in stores (real and online).

Listed below are my perennial favorites. The current copy of each sits on my desk within easy reach.

#1) The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.

This book has been the bible for many fans, including myself, since it arrived on the scene in the 80s. In fact, many of the editions take up an entire shelf in my book library. (I am missing the first 2 if anyone happens to have a spare :) It is irreverent and as tells it like it is. It is THE unofficial guide.

Just about anything you'd want to know about Walt Disney World is in this book. If you want to do in-depth research prior to your trip, the Unofficial Guide is for you!

#1A) The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2014 By Bob Sehlinger, Liliane J. Opsomer, Len Testa

Much like the regular guide (#1 above) this book targets kids and families, offering great suggestions on this to do, avoid or do better, quicker, faster.

#2) PassPorter's Walt Disney World 2014: The Unique Travel Guide, Planner, Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake! By Jennifer Marx, Dave Marx, Alexander Marx

Another unofficial guide book, the PassPorter series offer a viable alternative (or companion if you must read them all) to the Unofficial Guide. It's a unique travel guide, organizer, planner, and journal all in one. The back section of the guide contains "Pass Pockets" which allow you to jot planning notes, record what you actually did, and even has a pocket for keepsakes and receipts. And say, there are stickers too! Very family friendly and the format makes it easy for everyone to get involved.

#3) Finally, there is the official Disney World Guide Book, Steven Birnbaum's Walt Disney World, The Official Guide. If you are looking for information straight from the mouse himself, then this is the guide book for you. The 2014 guide also has a Birnbaum exclusive: A brand-new Kingdom Keepers Quest from bestselling author Ridley Pearson.

#3A) Walt Disney World for Kids: The Official Guide:

Designed with families in mind, this book makes fun reading for young ones!

There are dozens of other guide books on the market. I wish I had time to read them all, but it's near impossible to keep up with "everything" Walt Disney World these days. You won't go wrong with one or a combination of the above guide books.

What is your favorite WDW guide book and why? Leave a comment below!

Happy Planning!


August 20, 2013

Allergy Friendly Dining in Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

EDITOR'S NOTE: In 2015, the allergy free menu items were moved to the Discovery Island Kiosk, located on the right just past Pizzafari.

I think most of us with food allergies or special dietary concerns would agree that Walt Disney World is more accommodating than most places outside of Mouse World. Now, the folks at Walt Disney World have taken another step to reach out to those with concerns with more accessible information.

Animal Kingdom recently introduced a new kiosk that focuses on Allergy Dining Tips. When I first heard about it, I was quite excited. In addition to having a shellfish allergy, I am also a Type 1 insulin-pumping diabetic, which means I really have to watch what I eat.

So, I made a visit to Animal Kingdom to learn for myself. The kiosk is located to the right of the Tip Board toward Asia, just before the new Mickey and Minnie meet-and-greet location. At park opening, a cast member was standing outside the kiosk. Later in the day, I saw a different cast member inside.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Outside the kiosk is a display of various snacks that you can purchase right there -- many gluten-free and some vegetarian. I wonder how many folks see the Allergy Dining Tips sign and stop. While I was there, though, I only saw one family inquire about gluten-free options.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

If the words Allergy Dining Tips don't get your attention, perhaps the display of non-typical snacks will. In addition to the fresh fruit, there also are fresh gluten-free and vegan offerings from Downtown Disney's babycakes, packages of gluten-free rice chips, cookies, popcorn, and even beer.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

The cast member working at the kiosk was friendly, knowledgeable and eager to answer my questions. I asked if she was a dietician or had nutrition training, but she had not.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

At the kiosk, there is a huge binder for each section of Animal Kingdom. Inside it, each dining location has its own tab.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

I decided to check out Flame Tree Barbecue, one of my favorite places to enjoy lunch. Usually I order the turkey sandwich on multigrain bread, sometimes with beans and sometimes with cole slaw, so those were the foods I checked out.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Each page is full of information, ingredients and food labels. (Who knew Disney used Ken's Dressings?)

To help you focus on your "need" there are small yellow boxes that highlight "wheat," "corn," "egg," "soy" and other allergens you may want to be aware of.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

You can see which products are used and exactly what the ingredients are, even for things like the "dry rub" Flame Tree uses.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom


Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

There also is a pamphlet you can take with you called "Allergy Friendly Dining Tips." Inside, three dining locations are highlighted with "allergy-friendly" notes to help guide your decision on what to eat.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

I applaud Disney World's Food and Beverage team for taking the next step in helping folks with food allergies and dietary needs enjoy their dining experiences in the park! As I said in the beginning, there are few regular places that go the extra mile like Disney does. (Try asking for a no-sugar-added or sugar-free dessert sometime!)

I was, however, disappointed to see how many times the words "high fructose corn syrup" jumped out at me. But perhaps that's a conversation for another day!

The one thing I really hoped for, as a diabetic, is to see the actual nutritional information. How many calories, carbs, grams of fat, fiber, etc. make up each item? I realize this is difficult to do for products made from scratch by Disney chefs, but for prepackaged items it would seem to be easy enough to include.

That said, I encourage those of you with allergy or dietary concerns to stop by the kiosk in Animal Kingdom and ask questions. Also let Guest Services know what you think of the information. If all goes well with this Animal Kingdom trial (no idea how long it will be here) the other parks will be getting similar kiosks, too.

Let me know what you think of the new allergy-friendly kiosk and share your experience if you are able to stop by.

(Click on any of the photos for a larger image.)

July 9, 2013

Mickey's America Streetbeat Limited Time Magic Scores!

Deb's Digest Blog

This week's Limited Time Magic is Mickey's America Streetbeat performed in the American Gardens Theatre in Epcot. Streetbeat is a high energy 24 minute show with professional dancers and Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck.

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The jam session includes hip-hop, acrobatics, lots of percussion as well as tap dance - modern style.


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Each of the Disney characters gets their own spotlight in the show too!

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Mickey's America Streetbeat was created especially for Limited Time Magic although some segments have been previously performed at ESPN Wide World of Sports and "Helping Kids Shine" Grants award presentations.

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As far as Limited Time Magic events go, I think this one is spot on! If you plan to be in Epcot between now and July 14th, be sure to include this as part of your day! Show times are 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30.

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For more Limited Time Magic videos check out our Limited Time Magic Playlist on YouTube.

July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July America

Deb's Digest Blog

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Grand Finale of Voices of Liberty Show

Grand Finale of Epcot July 4th IllumiNations

May 11, 2013

Merida Becomes Newest Disney Princess

Merida's Celebration Ceremony Video:

Walt Disney World crowned its newest princess today, Princess Merida from Brave. Her mother, Queen Elinor, made her first public appearance.

The ceremony took place at the Magic Kingdom.

Merida's Royal Celebration

Olympic Gold-Medal gymnast Gabby Douglas and her mother participated in the celebration by sharing their mother-daughter story.

Merida's Royal Celebration

All the Disney Princesses were in attendance and introduced one at a time.

Merida's Royal Celebration


Snow White

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Cinderella

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Aurora

Merida's Royal Celebration


Ariel

Merida's Royal Celebration


Belle

Merida's Royal Celebration


Jasmine

Merida's Royal Celebration


Pocahontas

Merida's Royal Celebration


Mulan

Merida's Royal Celebration


Princess Tiana

Merida's Royal Celebration

Rapunzel (who received a roaring welcome)

Merida's Royal Celebration


With all the princesses on stage, it was time to crown Disney's newest princess.

Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration

Merida arrived in true-style riding her horse and accompanied by Scottish Bagpipes, dancers and banners

Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida is welcomed to the stage.

Merida's Royal Celebration


Queen Elinore performs the official duties of crowning Merida.

Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


"I AM MERIDA!", the newest princess proclaimed.

Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


And of course, no appearance by Merida would be complete without her bow.

Merida's Royal Celebration

Merida's Royal Celebration
All the princesses gather around for their first official photo together.

Merida's Royal Celebration

Gabby Douglas poses with Merida and Princess Tiana.

Merida's Royal Celebration

Queen Elinore is very proud of her daughter.

Merida's Royal Celebration

Merida's Royal Celebration

Merida's Royal Celebration

After the ceremony, the princesses gathered on the castle lawn for another photograph. Pictured with the princesses are Rosie and Sophie Grace (from the Ellen Show)

Merida's Royal Celebration

Sophia Grace and Rosie (The Ellen Show) Perform a Princess Rap for Merida!

Spotlight on Queen Elinor:

February 14, 2013

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Deb's Digest Blog

Happy Mardi Gras!

The annual Mardi Gras Parade at the Port Orleans Resort features floats designed by the Cast Members. Each team, housekeeping, front desk, etc, decorates a float for the parade. It's held annual on Fat Tuesday!

This year's theme was 75 Years of Disney Animated Films

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade

Port Orleans Resort Annual Mardi Gras Parade


February 8, 2013

Animal Kingdom Walk Around

AK-entrance.jpg

Yes, I admit, I love Animal Kingdom. Give me a choice of parks to roam on my own and that's where you'll find me. I am fascinated with the wildlife and love to photograph. And then, of course, there is that menu thing we do here at AllEars :) ( If you believe I have mislabeled any of the wildlife in this blog, please let me know!)

A few days ago I spent 2 consecutive mornings at Animal Kingdom. Both days were cool, 50s and 60s. The air was crisp and the park beautifully lit by the sunshine!

I like to stop by the Lemur area in Discovery Island Trails. This section is between the Cotton Top Tamarins and It's Tough to be a Bug. Parts of the view area right behind Doug and Russell's meet and greet area.

It is common to see the Ring-Tailed-Lemurs out (think King Julien from Madagascar) but very unusual to see the Collared Lemurs. In fact, I can probably count on one hand how many times I have seen the collared lemurs.

Always talk to the Cast Members in the viewing areas, even those on clean-up patrol. They can be very informative and helpful! On this day, the Cast Member at the Tamarins told me all the lemurs were out and that they were fed between 11-12 right now.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I found both collared lemurs awake and roaming around.

RINGED-TAILED-LEMURS

Animal Kingdom Ringed-Tailed Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Ringed-Tailed Lemurs

COLLARED LEMURS

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

I decided to walk the park counter-clockwise and headed to DinoLand USA. I'm not sure how long the Abdim Stork exhibit has been there, but I don't recall seeing it before.

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

Deeper into Asia, the Siamangs were out enjoying the sunshine! They were having a great time in their habitat and also walking the "tight rope" from station to station.

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Next up Maharajah Jungle Trek!

The Komodo Dragon was out the 2nd morning I was there.. too chilly the first morning. I believe it needs to be 65 degrees or warmer for the Komodo to be out.

Animal Kingdom Komodo Dragon

Animal Kingdom Komodo Dragon

The Saurus Cranes - largest crane in the world.

Animal Kingdom Saurus Cranes

The Banteng was enjoying the warmth from the sun.

Animal Kingdom Banteng

I bypassed the bat house and went into the Aviary.

So many birds were out - walking on the ground, flying above, chirping loudly! Remember to talk with the Cast Members! They will point out where the birds are and share interesting facts!

Nicobar Pigeon

Animal Kingdom Nicobar Pigeon

Pied Imperial Pigeon

Animal Kingdom Pied Imperial Pigeon

White Headed Buffalo Weaver

Animal Kingdom White Headed Buffalo Weaver

Zebra Finches

Animal Kingdom Zebra Finches

Golden Pheasant

Animal Kingdom Golden Pheasant

Animal Kingdom Golden Pheasant

As I left the Aviary and the Maharajah Jungle Trek I heard music and as I got closer, there was a crowd. The Bhangra DJ Dance Party was in full swing!

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

It was great fun and all guests, young and old got into the celebration. What a great idea for this part of Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

On my way out of Asia into Africa I saw Divine. Just LOVE to watch her.


Animal Kingdom Divine

Animal Kingdom Divine

Wandered into Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Aviary!

Golden Weavers - you'll see them fliting about really fast as they build their upside down nests.

Animal Kingdom Golden Weavers

Blue Bellied Roller

Animal Kingdom Blue Bellied Roller

Wattled Starling

Animal Kingdom

Great Blue Turaco

Animal Kingdom Great Blue Turaco

I hope you enjoyed walking through Animal Kingdom with me. What is your favorite thing to do in Animal Kingdom?

January 21, 2013

Magic Kingdom and Grand Floridian Walk Around

On Friday, 1/18/2013, I headed to the Magic Kingdom to check out the Giggle Gang in Storybook Circus and see what else was happening.

I went by way of the Grand Floridian so I could see the new Alice Splash Zone.

Alice's Splash Zone Grand Floridian

Alice's Splash Zone Grand Floridian

Alice's Splash Zone Grand Floridian

Check out more photos of Alice's Splash Zone!

I knew Gasparilla Grill and Games had reopened went to check it out - it has a new name Gasparilla Island Grill and the arcade games are gone.

Gasparilla Island Grill Grand Floridian

Gasparilla Island Grill Grand Floridian


Gasperilla Island Grill New Breakfast Menu

A quick monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom. The center area of the turnstyles are being refurbed to accommodate the new MyMagic+. Cast members were on both sides of the walled off area directing resort guests to the right and everyone else to the left.

Magic Kingdom Entrance

Magic Kingdom Entrance

Walking down Main Street the Bakery is now closed for rehab and folks are directed to the Tomorrowland Terrace for "bakery type items".

Main Street Bakery Magic Kingdom

Main Street Bakery Magic Kingdom


Tomorrowland Terrace Breakfast Menu!~

The Hall of Champions apparel store is now covered in scrims for refresh.

Hall of Champions Magic Kingdom

As I headed over to check out the Tomorrowland Terrace menu, I couldn't help but notice how peaceful this area by the Plaza Restaurant looks.

 Magic Kingdom

Now that the New Fantasyland has officially opened, focus is shifted to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction. Kind of hard to miss it since it's right in the midst of the new and "old" Fantasyland!

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

There are even areas where guests can look inside the walls at the construction going on!

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

 Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

The Beast's Castle was looking great against the bright blue sky!

 Beast's Castle Magic Kingdom

Keep in mind that the Fast Pass Distribution for Little Mermaid is next to Mickey's Philharmagic!

 Little Mermaid FastPass Magic Kingdom

And the Fast Passes for Dumbo and the Barnstormer are in the Yellow Tent next to Pete's Silly Sideshow in the back of Storybook Circus!

Storybook Circus FastPass Magic Kingdom

Casey's Splash Zone wasn't getting much action despite the beautiful warm day!

Casey's Splash Zone Magic Kingdom

Casey's Splash Zone Magic Kingdom

I think this is a cute kid's t-shirt.

Casey's Splash Zone Magic Kingdom

According to the Times Guide, the Giggle Gang was to perform at 10:30am, so I began waiting in the show area. However, I soon learned that their morning performances are more like walk-arounds in the Storybook Circus area and the afternoon shows are more traditional "shows".

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Giggle Gang Storybook Circus Magic Kingdom

Lots more photos and video of the Giggle Gang !

I exited the Fantasyland near Pinocchio Village Haus. A cast member was out front with a marionette of Pinocchio. I went inside and noticed that you can't walk straight in but are being directed to the side of the restaurant to get to the seating and ordering areas.

Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

Pinocchio Village Haus Magic Kingdom

And my last stop was at site of the Princess Fairytale Hall, opening sometime this year!

Princess Fairytale Hall Magic Kingdom

More photos of Princess Fairytale Hall!

That'll do it for this walk-around! Hope you enjoyed the photos!

November 6, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge - An Afternoon Outside the Parks

I recently had out of town house guests who didn't have park passes but wanted to visit WDW. We decided on lunch at Sanaa in Kidani Village followed by a tour of the savannahs.

Kidani Village


Animal Kingdom Lodge is made up of 2 complexes, Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House opened first and initially was totally a "regular" resort. Then the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) took over some of the rooms and transformed them into villas and construction on a total DVC resort, Kidani, was underway.

Kidani Village

Kidani Village has 2 animal savannahs, Sunset Savannah (which is shared with Jambo House) and the Pembe Savanah.

You don't have to look far at Kidani for animals especially if you dine at Sanna. We saw several giraffes wander by the windows during lunch.

Kidani_Village_2.jpg

After dining, we went out to the overlook and enjoyed seeing lots of animals and birds wandering around.

IMPALA

Kidani Village

MARIBOU STORK

Kidani Village

HARTLAND ZEBRA

Kidani Village


RETICULATED GIRAFFE

Kidani Village


WILDEBEAST

Kidani Village

EAST AFRICAN CROWN CRANE

Kidani Village

Next we headed over to the Pembe Savannah. To reach this one, you must go back out the lobby and turn right. Pass the swimming and recreation areas and finally you will reach a small viewing area. I had hoped to see the Okapi, but they were not visible.

WATERBUCK

Kidani Village

Kidani Village

VULTURE

Kidani Village

THOMPSON GAZELLES

Kidani Village

BLUE CRANE

Kidani Village

We went back to the car and headed to Jambo House. (There is a shuttle that runs between the two resorts). Three savannahs at Jambo, from left to right, Sunset, Arusha and Uzima.

Not much happening at the Sunset Savannah so we went to Arusha Rock.

Jambo House


ANKOLE CATTLE
Jambo House


PELICAN
Jambo House

SABLE ANTELOPE
Jambo House

RED RIVER HOGS
Jambo House

And our last stop, the Uzima Savannah, near the pool and recreation area. There are several viewing areas so be sure to visit them all.

FLAMINGO
Jambo House

SABLE ANTELOPE - notice the horns. The male have the curved horns, the female's horns are straighter.

Jambo House

Jambo House

SCIMITAR-HORNED ORYX
Jambo House

There you go, a wonderful afternoon at the Animal Kingdom Lodge enjoying the wildlife!

October 8, 2012

Epcot Food and Wine -- Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars Wine Tasting

Deb Wills

Silver_Oak_Winery_1.jpg

One of the less expensive events to attend at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival are the beverage and culinary demonstrations held daily in the Festival Center.

The beverage seminars are either $14 or $11 and advance reservations are recommended. The popular beverages and culinary demos will sell out! Tables in Wonderland members, Annual Passholders, DVC members, and Golden Oak residents are able to purchase a $2 discounted ticket for these events Monday through Thursday ONLY. Discounted reservations must be made via telephone at 407-WDW-FEST.

Today I attended the Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars tasting at $14 per person.

Upon entering the Festival Center turn left and look for the "Check-In" area. You'll need photo ID to pick up your tickets for the day (beverage and culinary seminars).

TIP: You can only pick up tickets for the current day. Be sure to bring your list of what seminars you reserved and pick up all the tickets at one time.

After getting your tickets, continue left to the vineyard stage and wait to be seated, or if you have extra time, visit the marketplace and cafe. We decided to get a fruit and cheese plate to nosh on before the tasting. At $5.39 plus tax, it was plenty for the 2 of us to share.

FoodWineCheesePlate90.jpg

Our presentation today was given by Charlie Campbell, National Sales Manager at Silver Oak/Twomey.

Silver_Oak_Winery_4.jpg

You never know until that day who will be presenting. Sometimes is the owner, winemaker or in this case, a member of the sales team.

TIP: If it is the owner or winemaker doing the presentation, they are sometimes available for a bottle signing after the talk. Check at the wine store prior to your seminar to find out.

Traditionally, three wines are poured at these tastings. There is a pitcher of ice water and small cups as well as a few (and I do mean few) crackers.

Silver_Oak_Winery_2.jpg

Also provided is a page with the wines you are tasting and a pencil to take notes.
TIP: The pencil is hard to read on the front of the page, flip it over and you'll be able to read your notes much better than I did! Or bring a pen to take notes with.

Silver_Oak_Winery_7.jpg


The three wines we tasted: 2011 Twomey Sauvignon Blanc, Twomey Merlot, and the Silver Oak Alexander Valley 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Silver_Oak_Winery_3.jpg

Silver Oak is an American family owned winery and has been in business for 40 years.
Twomey and Silver Oak are owned by the same family. Silver Oak focuses solely on Cabernet Sauvigon, while Towmey produces Savignon Blanc, Merlot and 4 different Pinot Noirs.

I had never heard of Twomey Cellars before so I was glad to learn about them. We really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc (which actually was much better than the Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc we had the night before at dinner). The Twomey wine was crisper and filled the mouth with lots of flavors. The Duckhorn was lighter with a short finish.

It was explained to us that "Twomey's founding winemaker, Daniel Baron, developed his passion for Merlot during the early 1980s while working in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. For the Twomey Merlot, made at the winery's Calistoga location, Daniel uses a method known as soutirage traditionnel. Refined for centuries in Pomerol, soutirage traditionnel is a slow, careful process of decanting the wine from one barrel to another. At Twomey, this racking is done six times during the 18 months of aging. It is considered the ideal way to clarify red wine to crystal-clear brilliance while drawing its fruit characteristics forward and softening its tannins."

We enjoyed the merlot (which sometimes is blended with up to 10% cabernet franc). It had soft tannins and you could taste chocolate and dark fruits.

Silver_Oak_Winery_5.jpg


Last, but not least, we tasted the Silver Oak Alexander Valley 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Silver_Oak_Winery_6.jpg

Two types of Cabernet are produced by Silver Oak. The first is from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma, the second from Napa Valley.

"Our 2007 Napa Valley, a blend of wine from vineyards throughout the appellation, is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. We blended the vineyard lots in early 2008 and transferred the wine to 100% new American oak barrels for aging. Blending prior to barreling allows us to achieve a balance of the wine's primary elements, such as fruit and tannin, before they are influenced by oak. The wine was then aged in barrel for approximately 25 months and another 20 months in bottle to harmonize its components before release."

The 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (100% cabernet) is a dark, rich full-bodied wine with great tannic structure and mouth-feel. It has a garnet color and a nose of ripe boysenberries, cherry liqueur, dark chocolate, sandalwood and a hint of roasting meat. On the palate, it is mouth-coating and incredibly rich in umami. It has a very long, savory finish with the slight grip of fine-grained tannins. Given proper cellaring, this wine should give drinking pleasure through 2030.

TIP: If you are a fan of Silver Oak and want to add a bottle to your collection... The Festival Center sells the 2007 Alexander Valley Cab for $55; this is about $20 less than retail or anything you'll find on the internet.

I highly recommend these beverage seminars as a great way to taste and learn about the various wines and winemakers!

NOTE: Some information has been taken from the website for Twomey Cellars and Silver Oak. If you are visiting California and wish to tour the winery, you must make advance reservations.

September 22, 2012

Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge Lunch Review

Deb Wills

wcc-signa.jpg


A few days ago, Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge introduced new menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I stopped by on Thursday to get the new menus and also to have lunch!

Special thanks to our server, Cajun Chad, and Chef Junior for their great service during our lunch!

Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge

Several important notes about the menu changes before I get to the actual review...

Breakfast is basically the same as it has been.

The biggest lunch change is that the All You Care To Eat Skillet is gone! The breakfast and dinner "All You Care To Enjoy" skillets are now called "Platters".

At dinner, there are no more entrees to select from, everything is a Build Your Own All You Care To Enjoy Family Platter at $32.99/per person. The platter includes choice of 3 items (ribs, chicken, beef strip loin, fish or sausage) along with sides of fresh vegetables, Yukon gold potatoes, baked beans and corn on the cob. A dessert sampler is also included in the price!

One of the new menus items is the Fried Fish and Country Chips. With my shellfish allergy, I had to ask about the fryer oil. Unfortunately, everything fried (spring rolls, french fries and fish) is now done in the same fryer oil. I was assured there was no shell-fish in that oil, but there was fish. If this presents an issue for you, upon request, the chef can heat up a separate pot of oil for your food. However, it was explained this would take extra time.

For the kids, not much changes. There is a new item "Multigrain Grill Cheese Dippers" which turns out to be what was described to me as a grilled cheese sandwich on multigrain bread and a small serving of tomato-like soup.

Vegetarians and those with special dietary requests should make notation when you make your reservation and speak to a chef upon being seated. A few options may be available including the off menu entree Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes. Also, at the time of this writing, the restaurant was still working on its vegetarian options.

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - with Edamame Salsa $16.99

Now, on to our review :

We wanted to try several different items in each category, so in addition to those, we also requested take home containers (which nicely provided us dinner).

New starters on the menu include the Yukon Potato Leek Soup and Flash Fried Navajo Bread. Now gone is the Cheddar Cheese Soup, Citrus Brine Oak-smoked Trout, and Venison Chili.

Yukon Potato Leek Soup - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Yukon Potato Leek Soup - topped with candied smoked-bacon $7.49

The Soup was yummy! It was creamy, almost thick, with a slight smokey flavor. Both of us really enjoyed it. Sometimes soups are over-salted for our tastes but this one wasn't. It was "bowl-lickin" good.

Slow-Smoked Pork Spring Rolls  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Slow-Smoked Pork Spring Rolls Sweet Chili dipping sauce $11.49

We found the pork spring rolls to be a disappointment. While they certainly looked like there was pork inside, we never tasted any. Dipping it in the accompanying sweet chili sauce did nothing to enhance the pork flavor. This starter was more like crispy spring roll (minus the filling) dipped in the sauce. If there had been more pork, there hopefully would have been more flavor.

The new sandwich on the menu is the Chuck Wagon Angus "Bacon and Egg" Burger. New entrees include the Western Salad, Fried Fish and Country Chips, Tuna Melt, Smoked Salmon Quesadilla and the Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs.

Gone are the Grilled Barbeque Chicken and Field Greens Salad , Griddled Meatloaf Sandwich and Whiskey Maple-Glazed Trout

Our Selections:

Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich - Cowboy Beans, Cucumber Salad $12.49

We both really enjoyed the pulled pork. It was slightly sweet, but not too much. Very lean (little fat) which is a huge plus for us. The one thing the menu didn't say was that the pork came topped with cole slaw with a kick! So, if you don't like spicy heat, ask for the slaw on the side or not at all. The pork sandwich also came with Cowboy beans - nothing of note to report here expect there were not overly sugared (yea). The cucumber salad was a pleasant surprise, sweet, tangy and flavorful. Almost like being bread and butter pickles.

House-smoked Turkey Sandwich  - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
House-smoked Turkey Sandwich - toasted Multigrain bread with arugula, Tomato and cranberry mayo $12.49

When the sandwich arrived I wondered, where is all the turkey You'll understand why when you see the next photo. It's the Turkey and Swiss sandwich from the Magic Kingdom's Main Street Bakery that I enjoyed last week!

Main Street Bakery Turkey sandwich" />
Turkey and Swiss Sandwich - Main Street Bakery - Magic Kingdom $6.99

Needless to say, before I even took a bite, I was quite disappointed. I found the smoked turkey was not at all tender and for me, the smokey flavor was overpowering. I eat smoked turkey sandwiches at lots of places, but this one just didn't do it. That said, the sweet potato fries were great!!!

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla - with arugula, frisee, tomato, goat cheese, mozzarella and a side of pepper jam $16.99
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla   - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge

The salmon quesadilla was very rich with lots goat cheese -- it was very filling and went a long way. The pepper jam jelly was not spicy and nicely complimented the quesadilla It would actually make an excellent breakfast or brunch dish.

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - with Edamame Salsa $16.99

Sautéed Red Quinoa Cakes - The winner on this dish is really the edamane salsa - it is full of flavor! Just the right mixture of edamane, corn, red pepper, cucumber, and onion. The sauce was a little spicy with a bit of heat and that enhanced the flavor of the quinoa cakes. I had this item when it was first introduced some time ago. I give kudos to the chefs for creating an entree that is not the normal vegies and pasta or vegies and tofu. Even as a non-vegetarian, I really enjoy it! I was glad to learn while not on the menu, it is usually available upon request.

And now dessert.............

Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake - with candied jalapeno $6.99

When it appeared in a short mason glass and not the traditional wedge on a plate we were surprised. Creamy, thick with real pieces of jalapeno inside. Tangy but not hot. The brownie on the bottom was hard to get to but complimented the cheese cake nicely.

No Sugar Added Seasonal Mousse - Whispering Canyon Cafe - Wilderness Lodge
No Sugar Added Seasonal Mousse - $6.99

The no sugar added berry mouse is by far one of the best I have tasted. Actually, both of us really enjoyed it! Full of flavor, not overly sweet, and the berries were fresh and tasty!

All You Care To Drink Milkshakes are still available!

Overall we really had a fun time at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. There was lots of ketchup shuffling going on between tables and folks seemed to be having a good time.

Remember our taste buds are not yours and experiences vary. I would recommend giving lunch a try!

September 12, 2012

Epcot - Sculpting the Spirits of America -Looking Back

As we move closer to October 1st and the 30th anniversary of Epcot, I thought I'd dig into my archives and share some images and information.

Over 300 sculpted art works, including 154 in World Showcase, helped theme the brand new park. Blaine Gibson, head of the WED sculpting team, explains "There are many things that have to work together in creating sculpture. The art must conform to our purpose and relate to the surrounding architecture and period."

The American Adventure theater has 12 "Spirits of America". The life-size sculptures include cowboys, pilgrims and scientists symbolizing the spirit making up this great nation!

The photo below is a Disney sculptor at WED Enterprises in California creating one of the "Spirits of America".

Spirit of America American Adventure Epcot

And as they are today:

These statues range in height from 5'5" to more than 6'. Each sits atop a 3' square base. Here is a list of the Spirits and who was chosen to represent the different categories.

Spirit of Adventure - Seaman
Spirit of Compassion - Doctor
Spirit of Discovery - Mountain Man
Spirit of Freedom - Pilgrim
Spirit of Heritage - Native American
Spirit of Independence - Colonial Soldier
Spirit of Individualism - Cowboy
Spirit of Innovation - Scientist
Spirit of Knowledge - Teacher
Spirit of Pioneering - Aviator
Spirit of Self-Reliance - Farmer
Spirit of Tomorrow - Woman and Child


Spirit of America American Adventure Epcot

Spirit of America American Adventure Epcot

To read more about the America Adventure attraction in Epcot begin HERE!

September 5, 2012

Magic Kingdom Walk Around

My next walk about takes place in the Magic Kingdom. I went over last Thursday, August 30th and it turned out to be the perfect time to visit.

Lately instead of taking the monorail, I have been enjoying a trip from TTC to the Magic Kingdom via Ferry Boat.

Magic Kingdom Ferry Boat

The view from the waterway gave me a great look at the Grand Floridian Disney Vacation Club construction going on.

Magic Kingdom

First thing I noticed is that fall has arrived at the Magic Kingdom. Or, more specifically, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party will begin on September 11th and the decorations are already taking shape.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Even thought it was Extra Magic Hour morning for resort guests, I still found the park fairly slow when I arrived at 9am.

Magic Kingdom

Main Street is lined in shades of orange flags and pumpkins.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

This is a photopass spot which offers a great view of the Pumpkins and the Castle!

Magic Kingdom


And the Scarecrow folks are back!

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

There are all kinds of headwear for the season too, like this Mickey Pumpkin Ears:

Magic Kingdom


Pumpkins can be found on the roofs of many Main Street Stores and many are themed, like these:

Magic Kingdom


Magic Kingdom


Magic Kingdom

Can you tell what this is and which store it can be found at?

Magic Kingdom

A must do for me at the Magic Kingdom is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority or TTA which will forever be known to me as the Wed-Way People Mover. I couldn't believe how empty Tomorrowland was. At 10am there was only a 10 minute standby line for Buzz!

Magic Kingdom

Over to the Fantasyland Expansion and this appears to be where many folks have congregated.

As previously reported, there is a sign at the entrance directly folks who want a Fast Pass for Dumbo to head to Mickey's Philharmagic!

Magic Kingdom

The Big Top Souvenirs sign now adorns one of the big tops.

Magic Kingdom

The Casey Junior Splash n Soak Station was not too crowded. There was a Cast Member stationed right near the "Rules Sign" to make sure people followed the directions!

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

..... and I read just today, there is now a large Storybook Circus sign as you enter the area.

The Fantasyland Expansion seems to be moving along quite rapidly. Lots of workers could be seen painting here, installing lights there..... Here is the Little Mermaid Area.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

The Seven Drawfs Mine Train.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

And the entrance to the new Fantasyland has changed the landscape forever....

Magic Kingdom


Magic Kingdom


Magic Kingdom


Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

The new bathrooms across from Peter Pan are moving right along. This will really be great once they open!

Magic Kingdom


It was nearing lunch time so I headed over to the Columbia Harbour House for my favorite lunch:

Magic Kingdom

Outside a colonial man was signing Happy Birthday to a delighted girl.

Magic Kingdom

Continuing around, the Yankee Trader was in full scrim with a sign that they were still open.

Magic Kingdom

The Liberty Square Market area had lots of festive pumpkins

Magic Kingdom

As I entered Frontierland the Country Bears were taking a break.

Magic Kingdom

But this band was playing right in front (tho not listed in the Times Guide).

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

Pecos Bill signs looked fresh and clean from their recent refurbishment

Magic Kingdom

The Frontierland Mountains was the other location that was quite crowded.

Magic Kingdom

On my way out through Adventureland, Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial was entertaining guests.

Magic Kingdom

Then I got to say hello to Princess Tiana as I made my way back to Main Street.

Magic Kingdom

One last task, I had read some folks were getting Magic Dumbo FastPasses when they got Meet Mickey Fastpasses on Main Street. At 12:40 in the afternoon, so did I!

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One important note about Service Animal Relief Areas.

In July, Walt Disney World announced that service animal relief areas in the theme parks would be moving from backstage areas to onstage areas for easier access. A week or so ago, the Magic Kingdom made the transition. After exploring the MK last week, AllEars® highly recommends that anyone with a service animal visit City Hall FIRST, before venturing into the park, as these areas are not currently shown on the Guide Map for Guests with Disabilities. Make sure the cast member gives you very specific location information. In addition, since it is a new program, a number of cast members were unaware of the location of the new relief areas. The one land that does not have a service animal relief area is Fantasyland, due to all the construction.

Lastly, I understand that Enchanted Tales with Belle is not only open on a limited basis for Cast Member Previews, but that some Magic Kingdom Guests have been able to experience it as well. If you get to see the new Enchanted Tales with Belle, let me know about your experience!

Til Next Time.........

Hope you enjoyed this walk around.

September 3, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph - Disney's Hollywood Studios

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The Production Gallery at the Magic of Disney Animation is now showcasing concept art from Wreck-it Ralph!
Wreck-it Ralph


THE STORY

Wreck-it Ralph

For decades, Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) has been overshadowed by Fix-It Felix, Jr. (voice of Jack McBrayer), the good-guy star of their game who always gets to save the day. Tired of playing the role of a bad guy, Ralph takes matters into his own massive hands and sets off on a journey across the arcade through multiple generations of video games to prove he's got what it takes to be a hero.

Wreck-it Ralph

On his quest, Ralph meets tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch) from the first-person action game Hero's Duty, and feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) from the candy-coated cart racing game, Sugar Rush, who may just be his first real friend. But everything changes when a deadly enemy is unleashed, threatening the entire arcade and Vanellope herself. Ralph finally gets his chance to save the day-but can he do it in time?

THE CHARACTERS

Ralph is a heavy-handed wrecking riot with a sensitive soul. For thirty years, day in and day out, he's been working as "The Bad Guy", in the arcade game Fix-it Felix, Jr. But it's getting harder and harder to love his job when no one seems to like him for doing it.

Suffering from a classic case of Bad-Guy fatigue and hungry for a little wreck-ognition, Ralph sets off on an adventure across an incredible arcade game world to prove that just because he's a Bad Guy, it doesn't mean he's a bad guy.

Wreck-it Ralph

Fix-it Felix, Jr. - As the titular star of "Fix-it Felix Jr.", Niceland's hammer-wielding maintenance man is a beloved local celebrity. This gold-medal winning Good Guy is idolized by the Nicelanders and envied by Ralph.

When he's not busy fixin all of Ralph's wreckin', Felix spends his days helping everyone out. Hard-wired for niceness, anything other than being a Good Guy just doesn't computer.

Wreck-it Ralph



Sergeant Tamera Jean Calhoun
- in the sci-fi battle zone of "Hero's Duty", Sergeant Calhoun is more than just a pretty face - she leads the charge for humanity's freedom. When she's not offering in-game intel, she's training her troops for the next attack wave.

The unrelenting commander will stop at nothing to protect the arcade from a virulent Cy-Bug invasion.

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph



Vanellope von Schweetz
- This raven-haired rascal is convinced she was destined to drive. With a racer's spirit embedded in her coding, Vanellope is determined to earn her rightful place in the starting lineup.

Years of rejection have left Vanellope with a wicked sense of humor and a razor-sharp tongue, however, somewhere beneath that hard shell is a sweet center just waiting to be found.

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph

Taffyta Muttonfudge, (voiced by Mindy Kaling "The Mindy Project," "The Office") as an accomplished racer and Vanellope's nemesis.

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph

King Candy (voiced by Alan Tudyk (ABC's "Suburgatory," "Dodgeball") All hail King Candy - ruler of the race track, captain of confectionery, sovereign of sugar. Not surprisingly, the most powerful figure in the Sugar Rush game is also the best racer on the track.

He may look noble enough, but he doesn't exactly welcome Ralph with open arms. The king is ably assisted by his strong-arming security team, and his diminutive henchman Sour Bill, a tiny little ball of bad.

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph


August 18, 2012

Animal Kindgom Walk Around Tips and Tidbits

Deb Wills

The entrance is beautiful this time of year with flowering vines.

Animal Kingdom Entrance

Always pick up a times guide - not all areas of the park open at the same time and you can save yourself some steps.

Animal Kingdom Times Guides

But, not everything can be found in the times guide. I specifically looked for appearances by DiVine and none were on the guide. However over at the main Animal Kingdom Times Board, I found DiVine's hours under Hot Tips! It pays to double check!

I always love the view when you come out of the Oasis and enter Discovery Island, seeing the Tree of Life!

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

I had planned to walk around Camp Minnie-Mickey, but the times guide told me it wasn't opening until 10am. Just before you head into the Camp area, there is a Disney Vacation Club Kiosk area. Right behind it are 3 fun cut out frames for photo ops!

Animal Kingdom

These zebras looked great against the blue sky. I remember many of these pieces actually being painted on my very first visit to Animal Kingdom, during a Cast Preview.

Animal Kingdom

My goal today was to ride Kilimanjaro Safari at least twice to get a good idea what animals are out in the summer heat! First stop, FastPass! There are signs now on each machine reminding you to return during the one hour window on your FastPass (so pay attention).

Animal Kingdom FastPass Signs

I headed over to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see what was happening.

While I have seen signs like this along the trail before, I hadn't really stopped to read them.

Animal Kingdom Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Upon entering the aviary section, you can't help but notice all the activity from the Africa Golden Weaver birds! Their nests are built up-side-down to what we think they should be to keep predators away! Check out Photo Blogger Scott's great photo of these birds!

Animal Kingdom Africa Golden Weaver birds

A Hippopotamus enjoying the sun and the waterfall.

Animal Kingdom Hippopotamus

Soon I was in the Meercat Viewing area. When the park first opened, you could not only see Meercat's and Gerinuks here but also Dik-Diks, a very small antelope. The Dik-Diks were only in Animal Kingdom for a short time.

Today when I looked around the only critters to be found were the Meercats. And then a huge fence in the distance.

Animal Kingdom Meercat Viewing

Animal Kingdom Meercat Viewing

While the Cast Member stationed there didn't know for sure what was going on. She speculated that work was being done on the trees OR perhaps they would have a new animal viewing area soon.. she said the rumor was "lions". Now, I would have normally just thought that was pure rumor, but earlier in the day, a Cast Member told me that Animal Kingdom recently acquired 4 Lion Cubs - so who knows?! That same Cast Member also indicated that occasionally a cub could be found in the Lion section (although on my two trips, I didn't see any). Again - pure rumor - I really have no idea what is going on.

Many of the Gorillas were out and about including this female and also the 2 year old.

Animal Kingdom Gorillas


Animal Kingdom Gorillas

It was nearing time 10:30am for my Kilimanjaro Safari FastPass so I headed over to check the return times. FastPasses were being given out for 11:15, so I went back to the machines and got another one so I could ride, kinda of back to back.

Lots of animals and birds were out. I spotted over 20 during the ride.

Disney sets the scene of the savannah up beautifully with this first look as you turn the corner.

Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safari

Lots of giraffes on both sides of the road. Animal Kingdom now has two kinds of giraffe, the Reticulated (which has been there since park opening) and the Masai. Can you tell which is which?

Animal Kingdom giraffe

Here is how.... Look closely at their patches.

The Masai giraffe has jagged edges along their patches.

Animal Kingdom Masai

The Reticulated giraffe's are smooth.

Animal Kingdom Reticulated

Ok, now look at them again :)


Animal Kingdom Giraffe

The elephants were having a great time with the water and throwing sand on their backs (for sunscreen - really!). Elephants of varying age were out too!

Animal Kingdom Elephants

A Cast Member in the KJS area had told me that there is a baby White Rhino sometimes out so to be sure and look for it. Unfortunately, I didn't see the baby Rhino.

Animal Kingdom White Rhino

We had a treat and got to see both the male and female lion walking around.

Animal Kingdom Lion

Near the end of the ride is the new area being prepared for the Zebra. The drivers have gotten the "story" about the new herd integration into their spiel. One even said the Zebras are expected in October. That goes along with "fall" time frame first reported.

Animal Kingdom Zebra area

When the first ride was over I only had 10 minutes to wait for my second ride. Just about all the same animals were out, some in different areas. I did see a Mandrill the 2nd time.

This time, the lions were sleeping. I could see the male, but the female was hard to spot.

Animal Kingdom Lions

While I miss the rickety old bridge bit during the ride, I really enjoy that the jeep is now able to spot, no matter how briefly, for photo ops.

One animal I did miss was the Thompson's Gazelle. I asked one of the Kilimanjaro Cast Members who told me they have been removed from Animal Kingdom and taken to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I'd love to have someone to talk to from Animal Kingdom about the animals.

Before leaving the park, I stopped by the Beastly Bazaar. This shop has been closed and will become a Character Meet and Greet. I asked 2 different Cast Members in the area what was going on in the store and neither had any information to share.

Animal Kingdom Beastly Bazaar

All too quickly, the heat started to get to me, so I headed out.

Animal Kingdom Exit

So,do you like "walk around" blogs like this one?


July 5, 2012

July 4th Celebrations in Epcot

A few years ago I was fortunate to be in Walt Disney World during the 4th of July. At that time, I had the privilege of seeing the special Voices of Liberty Concert. I knew that this year, I wanted to see them again.

Some of my friends wondered why I would go to Epcot on July 4th. Didn't I know it would be packed? Um, yes, I do; as any of the major holidays are. But I don't go for the attractions, I go for the special entertainment and extras. And, if you visit with that in mind, and don't worry about what rides you'll get on or how long the waits are, you can have a truly amazing time.

I wandered over to World Showcase around 10:30am. The park was waking up and folks were coming in. I decided to walk around and eventually make my way to the American Gardens Theater.

As you can see, the day began with blue skies, white puffy clouds and looked to be gorgeous.

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At the Land pavilion, the Kidcot station was celebrating the 4th of July with vegetable displays and festive coloring for the kids!

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As I made my way towards World Showcase, I saw this brand new topiary of Phineas and Ferb, no doubt to celebrate "Agent P's World Showcase Adventure" game.


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The Voices of Liberty!

On to World Showcase. I arrived at the American Adventure about 11:40am and a small line had already gathered for the concert. I gladly took my place in line, in the sun, in the heat, because I just had to see this performance!


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In case you don't know who these folk are, let me explain a tiny bit. The Voices of Liberty are an a capella singing group, that perform several times a day in the rotunda of the America Adventure pavilion. They bring "Americana" to life! Throughout the year you can listen to them sing musical numbers from Oh Susanna and Yankee Doodle to Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful.

These very talented singers perform in multi-part harmony, and their voices are their instruments. During the holiday season they perform as the Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers, and sing a variety of Christmas songs as well as some Hanukkah music. To see/hear them best, sit on the floor outside the red circle -- being right under the dome really amplifies their wonderful sound.

On the 4th of July, they move outside to the American Gardens Theater where they perform the absolute best show in their repertoire. Ok, some might argue the Candlelight Processional is their best - but they are just a part of that moving experience. On July 4th it's only the Voices of Liberty. Words really do not do this fine group justice.


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Their show is a special tribute to America! They fill the stage with their red and blue costumes and fill the air with melodies that bring you back in time.

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Songs like Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA, Golden Dreams, and an American medley.

There is also a special tribute to the armed forces with a melody of songs from each of the branches.

Even Mickey, Donald and Goofy join them on stage!


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And if the show weren't enough to garner a standing ovation, their finale, the Star Spangled Banner - as you've never heard it sung before -- is the ultimate!!! As I listened to them sing, I knew it was so worth standing in line in the heat. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched and listened. Everyone rose to their feet - how could you not?!

Here is a short clip of the grand finale!

And they leave to a thunderous standing ovation!

WOW!

Immediately following, the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corp had a special show!

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I wandered over to see when Betsy Ross might be performing (as she had in recent years) but was informed she wasn't available this year. Characters were out in the patriotic gear making for great photos.

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At the Kidcot station you could pick up an Independence Day pamplet which included a Discover America "Scavenger Hunt". It was fun for kids and adults!

By now it's well after 1pm and I wanted to visit the Tangierine Cafe (Morocco) for lunch.

Unfortunately, the sky had gotten quite dark and it was obvious a storm was moving in. I hurried back to the resort. As I reached the International Gateway boat dock the rain had begun. The Cast Member explained the boats would not run in severe thunder storm weather so we might be there for a while. I put my legs in gear and got back to the Boardwalk just as the skies opened up!

I took advantage of the air conditioning and caught up on some work in the room. Around 6:30pm the storm had cleared and I went back to Epcot to see IllumiNations and the special 4th of July tag.

Nearing International Gateway, I got a text from a friend who was waiting for the Sounds of Summer Concert by Slippery When Wet, a Bon Jovi tribute band. I joined them for the 7:45pm concert.

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Afterwards we headed to the front of World Showcase, where other friends were holding space for us to watch IllumiNations. Along the way we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

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I stopped by a kiosk near Mexico to purchase water and after waiting in quite a long line, got the last bottle they had (I wanted several).

We are all set now between the two Tower Shops with about 90+ minutes to wait..

Tower Shops

We were on the far side of the photo you see above. The closest area to the lagoon was closed off due to fallout from the fireworks. This was a very smart idea because even where we stood, we were "rained" on a few times. If you stand in this area for IllumiNations and the wind comes your way - be sure to have a hat and/or glasses on. Also, this location is extremely close to the barges so you will definitely feel the heat! It is also a VERY loud area to stand and ear plugs for little ones or yourself may be warrented.

Time passed fairly quickly as folks I knew turned out to be all around where we stood - it was great catching up.

At 9:45pm (15 minutes before the Epcot show) we were treated to a fantastic view of Disney's Hollywood Studios fireworks. All that was missing was the music! In fact at one point at the end, I thought IllumiNations was going to begin before the Studios finished. But, the timing was perfect to go from one to the next.

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IllumiNations!!! I was excited as I had not seen this show before. It is the regular IllumiNations with a special holiday tag at the end. It did NOT disappoint!!!!!

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Then the holiday "tag" began, highlighting the American Adventure. There were special graphics on the globe and great music to enjoy the fireworks show!

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Following this segment, there was a huge barrage of fireworks above and the crowd yelled with approval!

Thus ended a most wonderful, patriotic day in Epcot!


July 1, 2012

Happy 15 Years Off Kilter!

July 1st marks 15 years that the band Off Kilter has entertained countless visitors with their trademark high kicks and hijinks on their home stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot.

While the band has grown in popularity, (in fact, many would argue it is the best entertainment in Epcot), it has not outgrown its original concept. Did you know that founder Jamie Holton began playing bagpipes when he was just 11 years old?!

AllEars Senior Editor Deb Koma interviewed founder Jamie Holton back in 2001!

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"My parents come from a Scottish background and loved bagpipes, so I started studying how to play them when I was young," he explains. After winning the first competition he ever entered, he "continued up the competition ladder," searching for the best teachers and playing in a pipe band in Daytona Beach.

In 1990, Jamie, by then an accomplished piper, was able to convert his unusual skill into a full-time position at Walt Disney World, when he became a member of the Caledonian Bagpipe Trio, which performed in World Showcase. The following year he traveled to Tokyo Disneyland, where he originated the Fantasyland Bagpiper, a solo act that combined piping with comedy.

Caledonian Bagpipe Band
Jamie Holton on the left

By 1996, Jamie started to develop an idea he'd had: to blend his love of bagpipes and traditional Celtic music with rock-and-roll to create a band with a "world music" sound. He met Irishman Mark Weldon, a musician (and former All-Ireland motocross champion) with a wealth of Celtic musical knowledge, and the two began talking about the concept. They shared their growing excitement with keyboardist Tony Escapa, recruited lead guitarist Randy Holbrook and drummer Scott Zymowski, who had been working in a band at Disney's Pleasure Island.


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Here's a look back at some of the coverage and photos of Off Kilter that we've shared on AllEars.

Blogger Jack Spence highlighted them when discussing the Canada Pavilion:

In 1997, the Celtic-rock band Off Kilter was formed and became a permanent fixture at Epcot. Besides drums, fiddles, and guitars, bagpipes are a part of the instrumental makeup. The group became so popular that a permanent stage (The Mill Stage) and seating was erected shortly after their arrival. Although they perform a wide range of songs, they generally try to present pieces from Canadian artist and composers.

The Mill Stage

Off Kilter


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And our photobloggers have made Off Kilter their focus on several occasions:

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Tony Escapa is the band's keyboardist.

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Randy Holbrook, lead guitarist

Off Kilter at Epcot
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 1/160s shutter, f6.3
Founder Jamie Holton

Photo Blogger Scott Thomas created this "postcard" of the band!


Lead by singer and bagpipe player, Jamie Holton (upper right below), Off Kilter's unmistakable sound pulls people in and their fun on stage presence keeps them there. Along with Jamie, (from top left) bass guitarist Mark Weldon, master guitarist Randy Holbrook and keyboardist Tony Escapa. Not pictured is drummer Scott Zymowski. Click the Photo for a Larger Version.

Off Kilter on stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Off Kilter on stage in the Canada pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.

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Jamie recalls, "When we approached Disney with the idea, they were very supportive -- they told us they trusted us to do a good job with it." When they finally auditioned, Holton says they were enthusiastically welcomed. "As far as I know, we're the first band here that was ever listened to and hired on the same day," he adds.

Check the Epcot Times Guide to see when Off Kilter is playing!

Off Kilter's website: http://www1.offkilter.net/index.html

Their CDs are sold at the Kiosks in the Canadian Pavilion in Epcot.

Amazon also has some of the music for sale.

Everyone at AllEars® wishes Off Kilter continued success!!!


April 28, 2012

Fantasyland Expansion - Behind the Wall with Imagineer Chris Beatty

This blog contains 3 videos with Imagineer Chris Beatty - all talk about the Fantasyland Expansion. The first 2 videos are all about the themeing of the first section open, Storybook Circus. The last video is an overall update that Chris gave the Media.

I had the opportunity to get a hard hat, behind the wall peek at the construction that's going on in the new Fantasyland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on Thursday, April 26.


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Although there were no photos or video allowed behind the construction wall, I was able to record Chris beforehand, as he explained the project in some detail.

In this first video, Chris described the theming and backstory of the Storybook Circus as well as the new Dumbo Attractions

In part 2 of the video, Chris describes the Great Goofini's Barnstormer!

In this final video, Chris addresses the Media with a new update on the Fantasyland Expansion Project


April 24, 2012

VISION house® Opens in Epcot's Innoventions

On Earth Day, April 22nd, a brand new exhibit opened in Epcot's Innoventions called VISION house® !

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The purpose of VISION house® is to provide green living ideas in a fun and informative manner so guests can know a sustainable future is possible.

Green Builder® Media, North America's leading media company focused on sustainable living, has collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering to create the VISION House®, an innovative green home exhibit.

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"Sustainable living is about taking personal responsibility,"
says Green Builder® Media CEO Sara Gutterman."

What is exciting about this exhibit (unlike its predecessor the House of the Innoventions) is that the products found inside VISION house are all available today! "That is really important to us because we want people to walk though and to be able to take anything they see back home with them!", Sara Gutterman, Co-Founder and CEO of Green Builder Media. "We're hoping that everyone who walks through walks away with one or two ideas for sustainable living."

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Standing at the front door of VISION house® , the Cast Member begins telling the story
of the Monteverde family that lives here.


Disney Imagineers took a cold sterile house and transformed it into an inviting home where mother, father and children live - just like many of the the guests who walk through. You'll learn why the various products are important to different family members.

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The house is bright and open - no more dividers to keep you away from everything. Here you are able to explore while the Cast Member continues explain the various products and features. You'll find everything from water conservation fixtures (Kohler), energy efficient windows and doors (Pella), LED lighting solutions (Sylvania), even the dining room table placements are made from recycled paper!

Another product featured is the Bosch dishwasher. If you don't have a full load, Bosch's Half Load Option is perfect for small loads that use half or less of the dishwasher's capacity. You can load in the top rack, bottom rack, or half and half, and it reduces energy and water consumption by about 30%.

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The Armstrong World Industries kitchen cabinets look like typical cabinetry but are made with formaldehyde-free plywood to keep dangerous gases out of the indoor environment.

These are just a few of the new energy saving and sustainable products you will find inside VISION house®.

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John Eric, Disney Corporate Alliance Technology Manager
and Ron Jones, Founder and President Green Builder Media

"This is a great blend of the entertainment experience and more learning and more knowledge which is what Epcot and Innoventions is all about", John Eric explained.

Ron Jones summed it all up, "We thought this [Epcot and Green Builder] was a perfect fit. Green Builder is all about questions, we're about promoting the questions in the minds of people who are making decisions about how sustainable their lives are going to be today and tomorrow for future generations. Our partners are all about the answers. We want people to aspire to have a more sustainable life. We also want to demonstrate things that are available today, that they can incorporate in their lives. There is nothing in this exhibit they can't have today."

So what did I think? As I mentioned above, there are lots of new things to see and it is exciting knowing they are available to consumers today. In fact, I was especially delighted to see the Schlage combination lock on the front door of the VISION house®, as I have one on my own home. Also, I have recently been looking at Bosch dishwashers as a possible upgrade to my current one.

The tour provides a taste of ideas for you to consider after you leave. Make sure to pick up the small card on your way out, it lists all the companies whose products are found inside the home. Some are affordable today and others, well, you'll have to save a bit.

The tour is geared towards adults and older children. The one component I feel is missing is an actual "take away idea/tip" at the end of the tour. One last word from the Cast Member about an simple/affordable way you can make your home more "green" right away would carry the message back home, long after the vacation concludes.

The other suggestion is to have a character like Recycle Randy giving demos out in front of VISION house®.

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Randy was engaging guests on April 22nd and had a wonderful hands on demonstration for kids about recycling.

I was told he was just there for Earth Day. Have him (or a similar character) here on a regular basis. He definitely got the kids excited and engaged and would draw families into the space.

I highly recommend a tour on your next visit to Epcot. For more information check out http://greenbuildermag.com and the VISION® House website: http://visionhousegreen.com/

Once you check out VISION house®, leave a comment below with your thoughts!

March 8, 2012

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival Opens

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The 19th Annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival opened on March 7th.

I spent several hours in Epcot and just scratched the surface on what to see this year.

The floral displays begin before you enter Epcot with the Fantasia mushrooms.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

This year's grand entrance topiary is Sorcerer Mickey conducting Floral Magic.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival


Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

First thing to do as you enter Epcot, is pick up a Flower and Garden Festival Guide Map and the new Topiary Scavenger Hunt flyer. I didn't see any Scavanger Hunt flyers at the main entrance, but did find them at the Information Booth (back side of pin store). You can also download your own!

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There is also a mobile website called Epcot in Bloom: http://m.epcotinbloom.com. You can look at it from home but certain features can only be unlocked when you scan a QR code inside Epcot. There are 12 audio tour locations and 14 topiaries that have QR codes.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival Mobile Map

I liked the map feature of the mobile app. Also, if you are new to Epcot's Flower and Garden festival the audio tour provides interesting information. While it is true the there is in-depth information on the topiaries, the photos are from previous festivals so don't get confused if the photos don't match the locations in the app. Would be great if the photos were updated now that the topiaries are on display.

Here's more information on the Epcot in Bloom Mobile app!



Bambi's Butterfly House
is always a favorite with adults and kids. This year it has moved across the way and is larger than before. It can get crowded in here which can make stroller and wheelchair maneuvering difficult.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

There is a butterfly identification poster at each end of the exhibit. It is great to know what you are actually seeing. The butterflies are quite plentiful and found my bright yellow shirt particularly interesting. Several landed on me, briefly.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

This is a Mangrove Buckeye butterfly.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

The ever popular Bambi, Flower and Thumper topiaries are now in the Butterfly house.

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

As you make your way to towards World Showcase, the fab 5 as farmers and gardeners greet you!


Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival


Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

New this year is the Haiti exhibit. Be sure to check it out, there are even Haitian beverages for sale!

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Be sure to check out the Flower and Garden Festival Kids Activities blog

AllEars will be bringing you lots more photos and information about this year's Flower and Garden Festival so be sure to check back for updates on our website!

Now, sit back, relax and enjoy a 10 minute tour of the Festival:

February 7, 2012

Habit Heroes opens in Epcot's Innoventions

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The latest exhibit to debut in Innoventions is called Habit Heroes - created to teach families how to live a healthy and active lifestyle. It is presented by Florida Blue and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I experienced the new exhibit on February 3rd, the first day of soft openings.

Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions

Situated across from the Sum of All Thrills, the exhibit walls are filled with very colorful Marvel comics that help set the tone!


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


This interactive multi-media exhibit will keep you entertained as you learn to fight bad habits and become a Habit Hero.

As the story begins, we are at the entrance of a 100 year old gym, apartments above and periodically spot lights shine down below. ( I kinda felt like I was in a gangster sequence in the Great Movie Ride.)


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


Enter Will Power's gym, an abandoned fitness facility where there are photographs and trophies from 100 years ago.

Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


A black and white movie sets the stage for how a band of dedicated heroes once fought to keep folks healthy. Unfortunately, those days are long gone; and the narrator pleadingly asks "Oh Habit Heroes where are you when we need you most?"

Suddenly we flash forward in time and meet our hosts Will Power and Callie Stenics. They want us to become the new Habit Heroes.

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Our goal is to save a teenage boy who spends too much time behind the computer and on the couch and eats poorly and is out of shape.

Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions

A Cast Member gives everyone a colored wristband which signifies what team you are on in the next room - called "Control Freak".

Time to battle the "control freek" who controls the TV.


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions

This was the one room that was very confusing. We had just been led to believe we were on a special colored team and yet inside the room, we all just stood trying to determine where to go/what to do. Each station had all the colored lights on. Suddenly, the TVs start falling from above via a huge screen. It was hard to see the TVs as you had to really look up and strain your neck. Not sure how little ones would do. Thinking I was on the "yellow team", I only used the yellow button. Soon a Cast Member came over to tell me I could use all the buttons. Someone else said we were to run to the station closest to where our TV color was falling. By the time I figured it out, it was time to move on to the next challenge. Either way, it it is soft opening and this part needs more explanation. We also felt as though in this room and the next, we should have gotten a score of how well (or not) we did.

Sweet Tooth and the Snacker! With Toy Story Mania Spring-Action shooters, it is our turn to blast away and destroy all the calories we can! My shooter had broccoli and carrot bulls eyes to use! This was fun, but again, we were almost too close to the screen and no score.

Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions

Our last challenge was entitled Lead Bottom. Our job was to exercise and get Lead Bottom to, well, shake his booty. This was a really fun segment and as I looked around, many people were moving and following the exercises! I could see some might not like this part, but on this day, it was fun to shake it up.


Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions

At the conclusion we see we have saved the couch potato teenager and all is well!

Habit Heroes Epcot's Innoventions

Habit Heroes is still in soft opening mode and there is some tweaking that does need to be done. I think once everything is ironed out, it will be a fun exhibit to experience. I plan to go back in a couple weeks and see if things have been "fine tuned".

Other observations and notes:

The areas are all very dark with low lighting.

Some cast members had their "roles" down pat, others need more training.

I liked how subtitles were part of every video.

Just let loose when you get to Lead Bottom - it's a lot of fun!

Leave a comment with your thoughts about the Habit Heroes Exhibit!



January 14, 2012

Animal Kingdom Walk Around

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Thursday I went to Animal Kingdom. I really had wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. However my TouringPlan subscription reminded me it was Extra Magic Hour at MK and a park to avoid.

My second choice was Animal Kingdom which was not crowded at all! My main reason for visiting the park was to take menu photos to update AllEars.

Actually, the parks are not crowded right now. Most Marathon folks have headed home and there is a couple day lull before the 3 day weekend coming up.

I had a great spot in the parking lot, very unusual for me - second car in. Don't you always feel like you are at the end of the LONG row? I do, but today I lucked out.

Despite the low crowds the turnstiles to enter the park were a bit backed up.


Animal Kingdom

I enjoy walking through the Oasis checking out what animals and birds can be seen. There are a few different trails, so take time to explore. I love when there are Cast Members around to talk to about the various birds and animals. Today, a Cast Member was showing a skull from a Babirusa.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom


There is also a great little seating area off by the Baribusa area. Quiet and out of the way.

Animal Kingdom

I love seeing the Tree of Life as you come out of the Oasis. Today's blue sky made for a great photo!

Animal Kingdom

One thing I have noticed over the years is that artist or author park appearance are rarely announced in advance. A few years ago I was so excited to happen upon none other than Joe Rhode signing books in Animal Kingdom. His appearances at Animal Kingdom are VERY rare, but it always pays to ask at the "Times Board" and check out the stores yourself. There just might be an author or artist you would like to meet.

Animal Kingdom

Creature of habit, I generally start on the left side of Animal Kingdom and make my way around. Today, I decided to head right and begin in Dinoland USA.


Animal Kingdom

The longest wait I saw was for the photo op with Pluto and Goofy!

Animal Kingdom

There are lots of "dinosaurs" to be found in this part of the park so be sure to look all around, even up! This dinosaur can be found in Restaurantosaurus!


Animal Kingdom

A couple of dinosaurs can be seen on the Cretaceous Trail.

Animal Kingdom

There is also a nice quieter area with benches and shade. This would make a good spot while you are waiting for others to ride Dinosaur.

Animal Kingdom


A couple dinosaurs are also near the Dinosaur Fast Pass area!

Animal Kingdom


Next I wandered over to Primeval Whirl. Pretty much a walk on. There are 2 areas to measure height, this one is cute with the animal paw prints where a child should stand.

Animal Kingdom

Things were really quiet in the arcade game area. Just curious, do any of you play these games?

Animal Kingdom


Really short lines today for Expedition Everest as well, about 10 minutes when I went past around 10am. Also the single rider line was closed.

Animal Kingdom

I was glad to see the "test seats" still available for folks to see if they can transfer in from their wheelchair or if they will fit with the lap bar. It's nice and out of the way of the mainstream.

Animal Kingdom

The last thing I did was journey along the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Be sure to pick up a guide with info about the animals along the trail.

Animal Kingdom

You can also get a guide to the birds as well.

Animal Kingdom

The Komodo Dragon was out sunning himself. I didn't see the Tapir - come to think of it, it's been a long time since I saw her. Anyone see the Tapir recently?

I went through the bat area, there was lots of fruit hanging for them to eat.

A couple of the tigers were out. I had a nice chat with Cast Member Dennis about the Tigers. I've said it before but these Cast members are a wonderful resource of information about the animals and birds. Don't hesitate to ask questions and engage in a conversation.

Animal Kingdom

I left the park around 11:30am. You can see from the Times Board the waits were still pretty short!

Animal Kingdom

A beautiful morning in my favorite park.


January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

In case you didn't see this great photo of Big Al on the Disney Parks Blog......

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

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December 29, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites

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It is time for another Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites. Hopefully, now that we live in Florida, I'll be able to do these more often.

Last week Linda and I stayed two nights at the Contemporary Garden Wing (AP Rate which we got just 10 days prior) and spent both days in the Magic Kingdom and MK resort area.

This segment contains a quick service, theme park full service and signature dining.


CONTEMPO CAFE - CONTEMPORARY

Chicken Chop Salad $7.69
Deb: I have not been a fan of the Contempo Cafe, my previous 2 dining experiences were not so great. However I must say the Chicken Chop Salad was very fresh and perfect for lunch. It had the right balance of veggies, protein and carbs! I always ask for dressing on the side and was glad I did. The mayo based dressing really had little flavor and the vegis more than made up for it! I would have this again and would also recommend it to you!

Contempo Cafe


Chicken Spinach and Artichoke Flatbread $8.79
Linda: This was disappointing as the description of the flatbread did not jive with what I received. The spinach and artichoke appeared to be a creamy dip spread on the flatbread - not a chicken, spinach and artichoke flatbread that was advertised. There were VERY little actual spinach or artichokes. Plus the sauce was VERY thick and not at all appetizing. I was expecting fresh spinach and chopped artichoke therefore would not order again nor recommend it.

Contempo Cafe

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CALIFORNIA GRILL - CONTEMPORARY

Heirloom Apple Salad - winter greens, aged Gouda, dried cranberries, pumpkin-apple dressing $14
Deb: I love when greens means something other than Romaine or Iceburg lettuce and I would expect nothing less from a signature restaurant. The selection of greens were crunchy and did remind me of "winter". I loved the aged Gouda sprinkled on the top. If there was a slight disappointment with the salad it was the dressing. I felt the pumpkin-apple dressing was on the bland side and did not have the flavors I expected. That said, it was still a great salad and I would order it again!

California Grill


Creamy Parsnip and Sunchoke Soup - apple gastrique, truffled goat cheese gougere $11
Linda:
Yum Yum! Sunchoke was described as a cross of the edible parts of a sunflower and an artichoke. Seasoned perfectly, not over salted, and had a savory and sweet flavor (sweet coming from the small bits of apple). The goat cheese was in a puff pastry you can see on the side of the soup in the photo. I highly recommend and I'd order again!

California Grill


Triple Cheese Flatbread - pecorino, asiago, and provolone, sun-dried tomato and arugula pesto $12
Deb: I didn't want a full, heavy dinner and so opted for the salad above and this flatbread. I'm not much of an adventurous eater so this fit the bill for me perfectly. I'm a big fan of flatbreads from the signature restaurants with Jiko and California Grill making some of my most favorites!

California Grill

Dragon Roll - spicy and tataki tuna, shrimp tempura, bell pepper, avocado, chili soy glaze $28
Linda: Another Yoshi (Sushi Chef Extraordinare) Winner! A superb and very filling entree. If shared would make a great appetizer for 2. The only thing I didn't care from was the red bell pepper. Highly recommend and I'd order again.

California Grill

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LIBERTY TREE TAVERN - LUNCH - MAGIC KINGDOM

Colony Salad - Washington apples, sweet pecans and applewood smoked cheddar, dried cranberries Craisins, and grilled chicken tossed with field greens in honey shallot vinaigrette $14.49
Deb: I love lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The Colony salad is a wonderful blend of flavors accented with the apples. I forgot to order the dressing on the side so it was a bit "soupy" for me, but that was my error. I've had this salad before and I'll have it again - try it next time!

Liberty Tree Tavern


Pilgrims' Feast - traditional roast turkey with herb bread dressing, mashed potatoes and a garden vegetable $14.99
Linda: This hit the spot. I debated between this and the Tri-Corner sandwich and the server recommended the turkey - Spot on! Some of the most moist and tender turkey breast I've had in a long time. Green beans cooked just right, dressing was yummy - I joined the Clean Plate club for this one! Highly recommend!

Liberty Tree Tavern



Post Your Reviews and Read what Others Say about:

Contempo Cafe
California Grill
Liberty Tree Tavern Lunch

That's it for this edition of WDW Dining Bits and Bites!


December 4, 2011

Beach Club and Yacht Club Holiday Decorations at Walt Disney World

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On our way to the RADP 16th annual meet and greet (more on RADP at the end) we stopped by the Yacht and Beach Club to see the holiday displays.

The lamposts were wound with garland, balls and lights - I'll have to swing by one evening to see how pretty the entrance way looks.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

In the lobby there is garland all around and the centerpieces are the holiday tree and gingerbread display.


Disney's Beach Club Resort

I love looking closely at the various tree ornaments. See how many you can find like the Seahorse, and starfish.....


Disney's Beach Club Resort

The Gingerbread Carousel has returned.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Disney's Beach Club Resort

And if you look closely you'll see the QR codes around to learn more about the display. The QR codes require a reader app that you can get for your cell phone. (Make a note to get one of those :)

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Ariel has a special horse too!

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Snow White has a revolving castle

Disney's Beach Club Resort

And the Gingerbread Shop is open evenings, Monday-Thursday 6-8pm and Friday and Saturday 4-8pm. The shop didn't need to be open to enjoy the smell of gingerbread. If you want a Gingerbread House to purchase, head over to the Beach Club Marketplace.

Disney's Beach Club Resort

Next stop, Disney's Yacht Club. The lampposts here have the same garland and lights adornments.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

And as you walk closer there is a beautiful floral display of red and white poinsettias and impatience.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

The holiday tree has a nautical theme with boats and lighthouses.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

A wonderful Dickens aka Dept 56 display complete with a train, highlight the shops and restaurants of the Yacht and Beach club resorts.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

See if you can spot the Hidden Mickey in this photo!

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

Soon it was time for the RADP meet at the International Gateway. RADP (rec.arts.disney.parks) is where I got my start online and was the only type of message board that existed back in the early days.

The strangers who met those first few years in December have become dear friends and family. Each year they continue to gather at WDW to celebrate the holidays and their friendships.

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December 1, 2011

December to Remember at Walt Disney World - Begins in 7 Days

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In January 2011, AllEars® reached an important milestone - 15 years online!! To thank everyone who has supported us over the years, we decided to have a year long celebration. All Ears has had meets in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, on the Disney Wonder cruise ship, and in New York City. The grand finale of our yearlong anniversary celebration is "A December to Remember", December 8-11, 2011 -- a long weekend full of special events held at various locations in the Walt Disney World Resort.

One week from today is the official beginning of our special celebration -- December to Remember

While some events are sold out, many others are open to all - no RSVP necessary. We have lots of new AllEars Trading Cards to hand out and team members now have their own individual cards as well! Be sure to see how many you can collect during December to Remember.

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On Thursday December 8th, we focus on the Magic Kingdom/Resort area.

5pm Magic Kingdom. Closing in on almost 10 years, Mike Scopa has hosted his December Dole Whip Meet as a venue for all December guests to meet up, get reacquainted, and just share the joy of Walt Disney World, and of course, that delight know as Dole Whip. Join Mike as he celebrates yet another signature meet at Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle in Adventureland.

Fort Wilderness Holiday Lights Tour! 6:30pm - 8:00pm. - Ft. Wilderness Campground - Hosted by Erin Blackwell. The Fort Wilderness resort's holiday decorations are becoming famous, featured on the Travel Channel and Orlando Attractions and a favorite with photographers. Now we're giving a tour of some of the greatest guest displays, ending with watching the Wishes fireworks! It's a great opportunity to enjoy spirit, the holidays, and the unique community planned by Walt Disney himself.

Meet at Pioneer Hall (where the Hoop Dee Doo is performed) at 6:30pm. We will wait fifteen minutes for everyone to join us while Erin Blackwell gives history and details that make Fort Wilderness unique. This is an easy walking tour, but Erin will also have an electric (golf) cart for up to 5 people to ride if they prefer. And, of course, Fort Wilderness is ECV friendly.

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Friday, December 9th is Disney's Hollywood Studios Day.

AllEars® Meet and Greet at Rosie's All American Cafe on Sunset Blvd.
10:00 - 11:00 a.m. We held this meet in 2010 and it was such a great success we decided to do it again!!! Just head down Sunset Blvd towards the Tower of Terror. Rosie's is on the left side.

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Saturday, December 10th is Animal Kingdom Day!

Smile and Say Jambo at Animal Kingdom 8:15 a.m.
Meet AllEars® Picture This! Photo Bloggers Scott Thomas and Barrie Brewer for a morning at Animal Kingdom. Early risers (or those wanting coffee) should meet outside the Rainforest Cafe. No tickets required.

Once the park opens AT 9AM, the group will get Kilimanjaro Safari FastPasses and then walk the Pagani Exploration Trail.

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Sunday December 11th is Epcot/Resort Area Day


Team AllEars® Run/Walk/Wog Yer Buns Off
- 7 a.m. Join Team AllEars® Co-Captains Michelle Scribner-MacLean and Mike Scopa as they go for a leisurely run/walk/wog (weather permitting) from the Boardwalk Bakery to Disney's Hollywood Studios and back. This enjoyable 5K+ route will take us past Storm-a-Long bay, along the path to Disney's Hollywood Studios, and a return back to Boardwalk. We will meet at the Boardwalk Bakery and be ready to run by about 7 a.m. Will the Osborne Lights be on? You never know...

The Around the World CHOCOLATE Challenge from 2:00pm -4:00pm

2:00pm at Epcot's World Showcase -- The French Arm, that quiet little spot that's located down the stairs along the water in the France pavilion.

Join your AllEars.Net co-hosts Laura Gilbreath and Deb Koma, as we go "in search of"...
CHOCOLATE! We have devised a scavenger hunt/game that will send AllEars.Net readers out into the World to answer questions and gather clues from those country pavilions in an effort to win prizes -- all involving CHOCOLATE, of course! The mission? Complete an assortment of CHOCOLATE challenges, to be revealed closer to the mission date.

Prizes will be awarded; all will involve CHOCOLATE in some way!
Special gift to the first 50 participants at the meet -- gift only available while limited quantities last.

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So as you can see, there are lots of fun activities planned. We hope you'll join us for our December to Remember 15th Anniversary Celebration!

For More Information visit the December to Remember Area!


November 25, 2011

2012 WDW Calendars for a Cause

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2012 Focus on Disney World Calendar


It's that time again - time to buy your 2012 Focus on Disney World Calendar!

For those of you who don't know, my good friend and AllEars® Photoblogger Barrie Brewer produces a yearly calendar with photos from Walt Disney World. As a now 25 year survivor, I do all I can to fight this horrible disease. Barrie has been a great help! In 2010 and 2011, she donated the proceeds to my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer fund and raised a total of $2748!


Once again, she'll be donating the proceeds from this year's calendar to my Avon Walk, so the more she sells the better. With your help, we could easily add another $1500 to the total this year. She's kept the price the same as last year, hoping to encourage everyone to stock up - they make a great gift for all your Disney loving friends and family. At the very least, everyone needs two - one for home and one for work!


DISCOUNT TIP: Not only that - if you order them soon you can even save some money and still help out a great cause. Enter coupon code STUDIOVIP305 at checkout and receive 35% off - that works out to be just $10.89 per calendar!

The maximum savings for this offer is $100. You can only use this code once per account, and unfortunately you can't use this coupon in combination with other coupon codes. This great offer expires on November 30, 2011 at 11:59 PM, so don't miss out!

Thank you so much for doing your part in the fight!!!!! We'll be reporting the totals at the end of the year!

November 23, 2011

First Inhabitants of Animal Kingdom

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During the construction of Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World's Media Relations office sent out periodic updates to journalists. These were oversized full color newletters designed to acquaint the media with the newest theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom.

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The following photos were taken at Animal Kingdom but the names are unknown.


The very first inhabitants were two reticulated giraffes named Zari and Miles. At the time, Zari was a 1.5 year old female born at the Metro Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon. Miles was a 2 year old male from the St. Louis Zoological Park.

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The next animals to move in were seven western lowland gorillas. The family group of 4 was led by silverback Gino, a young male Hasani, and two females Hope and Benga. A bachelor group also moved into Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (the original name of Pangani Forest Exploration Trail ) consisting of Zwadi, M'bizi and Chuma. These gorillas are endangered in the wild. All the gorillas, except Gino, came from 2 zoos in Chicago. Gino was born in the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands and arrived in 1980 to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

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Two African elephants round out the first group of animals to call Animal Kingdom home; Thandi and Moyo from the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.


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November 13, 2011

Holiday Season at Walt Disney World Epcot Resorts

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The Walt Disney World resort is full of hustle and bustle as the holiday decorations are set out for everyone to enjoy. It's a great time of year with lots of fun activities and lots of things to sight-see!

I think this will be my 18th or 19th trip to WDW in December. Yes, even when I took just one trip a year, it was usually in December!

Want a break from the parks? Take a leisurely stroll in the Epcot Resort area! There is so much to see! Here are my favorite photos from 2010.

I love the decorations at the resorts. Let's start at the Beach Club.

I can spend a long time enjoying the special Carousel in the lobby. There are so many hidden treasures (not to mention the Hidden Mickeys) to find!

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The Yacht Club resort has a huge "Dickens/Dept 56" type village.

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See how many familiar names you can spot as you walk around!

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I love this beautiful tree in the lobby of the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

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Next walk over to the Swan. You will not want to miss the Chocolate Santa! I hear he's going to be back this season too!

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Might as well keep walking over the bridge to the Boardwalk. They have a great display as well you won't want to miss:

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Pay special attention to the train cars!

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Last year Mike Bachand did a 2 part blog series on the resort decorations. Check it out:
Part 1
Part 2

October 23, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites

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During my stay in Walt Disney World earlier this month, I was able to visit many restaurants and experienced many delights... and the occasional low-light. These bits and bites are based mainly based on this trip only, your experience or even mine in the future may be different.

To try and sum it up for you, here are my Dining Bits and Bites!

BEST NEW ITEMS

Kouzzina Breakfast Skillet! Savory eggs on top of sweet potato hash and topped with arugula salad - Super Yummy. The funny thing was I had been to Kouzzina early in my trip and breakfast was the menu I had grown to know and love. When I went back several days later, I couldn't figure ou what had happened to the menu! Finally asked the server and she explained it was brand new. While I will miss the breakfast flatbread and open faced omelet, the new breakfast skillet is a winner! I will be back next trip.


Whispering Canyon Café - Cheddar Cheese Soup $6.99 - with candied bacon and popcorn - wow!!!! We got to sample a small portion of the soup while dining at Artist Point and all 4 of us LOVED it!

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PLEASANTLY SURPRISED

Looking for a last-minute dinner can be very difficult, even for two. But in the Epcot resort area, we knew someplace had to have a table open.

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I have often gone to the Captain's Grille at the Yacht Club for lunch, but finally tried out dinner. We had a great meal. Linda had the Grilled Rib-eye which she said was tender and flavorful. I had the Pan-Seared Chicken with white beans and smoked bacon - it was yummy! The only odd thing was that both of our knives seemed incredibly dull. We talked to the manager and he assured us the knives are sharpened on a regular basis. We suggested he take a look at the two we were using. The server was great and overall we were pleased! We will return!



BIGGEST SURPRISES

Biggest Surprise #1 - Dinner at Boatwrights Port Orleans Riverside.

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While we got off to a slow start with our server, eventually everything picked up and we had a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed the Grilled Pork Chop ($21.99), Tenderloin Medallions ($27.40), and the Prime Rib ($27.99).

I suggest making an evening of it - dine here then go see the YeeHawBob's show!


Biggest Surprise #2 - Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge has a flight of SAKE and it's $15! Believe it or not, a place in Oregon makes SAKE!

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LOVING MORE AND MORE

Il Mulino (Swan) - best Italian food on Disney property! The Carpaccio Di Tonno - Thinly Shaved, Center-Cut Tuna served with Arugula, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Lemon Juice $14 - melts in your mouth! Really enjoyed the well aged Parmigiano Reggiano (listed as an appetizer), or as I like to say dessert, for $8.00. If you are looking for a great red Italian wine, try: Antinori guardo al tasso - Brusciato with cabernet, merlot and syrah 2008 for $79.



BEST OF THE BEST

Flying Fish (Boardwalk) continues to provide an outstanding dining experience in terms of service and food. Fresh Breakfast (Dolphin) wonderful, Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge), Jiko - awaiting a new chef (Animal Kingdom Lodge) !



DISAPPOINTMENT

Coral Reef - I so wanted to have a great experience here. The reviews we get are always mixed. Our food was good, however the server was far below average and made a couple huge mistakes that put a damper on the whole experience. The good news - there was a sea turtle was swimming by and hanging out through most of our dinner. You can't beat the atmosphere.

Coral Reef Turtle

SAME OL'

Big River Grille on the Boardwalk
- Nothing fancy or special here. Consistent average pub food. The highlight is the microbrews and the option to dine outside and watch everyone strolling the boardwalk.



BEST KEPT SECRET

Best Kept Secret: Garden Grove (Swan) for non-character breakfasts and lunch. Food was consistently above average as was the service.

The breakfast buffet including Strawberries and Blueberries - my favs! Also, eggs made to order plus yummy bran muffins with raisins. Of course, all the usual breakfast foods are here as well.

Garden Grove at the Swan

Garden Grove at the Swan

For lunch, try the French Dip OR Mahi Fish Tacos.

FUTURE DINING

I'm in search of an excellent theme park dining experience that combines food, theming, and service on a consistent basis. What do you recommend and why??!! Leave your comment below.

Photos from the DisneyFoodBlog.com are here with permission.

July 28, 2011

Epcot World Showcase Postcards

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I also like to collect postcards and Epcot postcards being one of my favorites.

When I was at the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet last month, one of the Disneyana vendors had a box of postcards.

I found some Epcot World Showcase ones that I hadn't seen before.

There were several things I like about this series. I like how each country is depicted, each with a different emphasis. I like that the card really stands out and draws your attention - it certainly would have gotten mine, if I had seen them on a rack in the store.

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France - The elegance of France is on display in the restaurants and shops here - along with our version of the Eiffel Tower and surprising statues that come to life. Parlez-vous adventure? (text from back of postcard)


Epcot World Showcase Postcards

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Mexico - Buenos dias, amigos! Come and enjoy the authentic tastes and shops of Mexico. It's the perfect way to start out, or finish up, your trip "around the world". (text from back of postcard)


Epcot World Showcase Postcards


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China - Experience the unique shopping, dining and entertainment of China...right here at Epcot. And don't miss the Land of Many Faces - a first-of-its-kind exhibit introducing China's ethnic peoples. (text from back of postcard)

Epcot World Showcase Postcards

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There is also a postcard that has mini photos of all eleven postcards - like a checklist!

Epcot World Showcase Postcards


While there is no date on them, I"m guessing 1990's. If you know when these were published please let me know.

July 17, 2011

Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

Continuing my blogs on Disney ephemera......

Let's take a look at the Entertainment Programs that used to come inside each Epcot Guide Map! I loved these programs as they not only provided a very quick, easy reference to see what was happening where.. but as someone who likes to "Step Back", I can remember what used to be.

I like this cover - it is simple enough but invites you to open it up and see what's in store for you!

Note that IllumiNations is not only presented by G.E. but also shown at 10:00pm.

Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

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The program unfolds to 4 panels listing the names and times for World Showcase entertainment. I like to see what acts were around then and have left, as well as those that remained in the park over the last 2 decades.

Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

Mexico's Mariachi Cobre have certainly withstood the test of time.

The Acrobats of China were always a favorite of mine, however they recently ended their time at Epcot.

Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

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Folding it back up half way, the left side lists Future World entertainment


Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

I only saw the Dreamfinder and Figment once and that was long before digital photography. They are one part of Epcot I fondly miss!

I never realized that GERO the robot made appearances outside of Horizons. I did manage to find a photo of GERO online!


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The right side gives a schedule for character greetings and special entertainment.

Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

The Stargate Restaurant was located in Communicore where the Electric Umbrella now resides.

Note the Odyssey is listed as a restaurant. I do remember once having a burger there!

It was great being able to see the travel troupes of performers from all over the world. I remember during the Millenium Celebration, the Millenium Village would have similar groups perform!

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And the requisite advertising back.

Epcot Center Entertainment Program August 1990

Did you visit Epcot Center in 1990? Remember any of these performers?

Let me know who your favorite was.. and if you have photographs of the entertainers that no longer performs in Epcot let me know and perhaps we'll do a separate blog with those photos!

June 20, 2011

Magic Kingdom Guides 1976

Following up on my last blog.. today we'll look at the 1976 Magic Kingdom guide which is compliments of GAF. My copy is worn, but you'll be able to see the pages.

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32 pages plus the front and back cover make up this treasure trove of information. Remember back then, no internet, cell phones or much of anything other than print and broadcast media, so the guide had to sell it all.

There is a table of contents (so you can locate the information you want) as well as a page of helpful information. Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from the information page:

** Locker Service - is available for checking purchases and garments -- GARMENTS?? Can you image today someone asking to check a garment?

** Travel Service -- car-map routing service and information provided, Gulf Hospitality House, Town Square

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Now we get to see not only what types of tickets were available in 1976 but the cost as well! Attractions were still utilizing lettered tickets A-E.

One bargain was the $9 adult ticket for a guided tour of the Magic Kingdom. You not only got admission ($6) but a 3.5 hour guided walking tour that included 5 attractions plus 2 more of your choice!

Another page offered Tips on Your Visit. It was suggested you visit the following before noon or after 4pm at these popular attractions:

Skyway in Fantasyland/Tomorrowland (D Ticket)

Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square (E Ticket)

Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland (E Ticket)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Fantasyland (E Ticket)

Grand Prix Raceway in Tomorrowland (C Ticket)

One page is a special guide for guests in wheelchairs. You could rent a wheelchair for $1 per day.

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Each land then had it's own page or 2 with a listing of the attractions(short description and ticket value), restaurants and shops. Later versions of the guide would also include a small map of the land as well.

Can you name the "free" attractions from 1976?

According to this pamphlet:

Main Street USA - Walt Disney Story
Frontierland's Diamond Horseshoe Revue
Tomorrowland the Carousel of Progress, If You Had Wings and the Circle-Vision 360.

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And what guide wouldn't be complete without lots of photo tips for you to take pictures and buy more film! Look at the way the folks are dressed to visit a theme park! I'll say one thing though, the photo tips really are timeless!

And all this is just the first half of the guidebook!

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The center section is a two-page map of the Magic Kingdom. You can see there was plenty of room for expansion. Look at the huge area on the left side where you can now find Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain!

And those blue dots on the map? That's the GAF photo trail - the best locations for taking your still or movie pictures!

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You can even find 2 pages called "How Do I Go From Here?" It was a lot simpler back then LOL. The map even showed the Magic Kingdom parking lot sections by "name". Lake Buena Vista was described as " a world of boutiques, country club dining...."

And there there are the Special Attractions!

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Yes, the Electric Water Pageant has been around a VERY long time. Folks have been enjoying this simple light and sound show for decades.

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Each resort had its own section too!

You can even see a photo of the short-lived Fort Wilderness Railroad! "Travel around Fort Wilderness aboard the Wilderness Live steam train attraction."

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I couldn't resist including the ad for the Shaggy DA movie!

That about concludes our look at the Magic Kingdom Guide for 1976.

Hope you enjoyed the journey back in time.

April 18, 2011

My Next Disney Journey

One week from today, I'll be on a plane headed for the West Coast, to start a three-week Disney journey that will take me coast to coast on land and sea and into Canada and Alaska!

First stop is Disneyland for 2 nights -- gotta get used to the time change before I really get started!

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We'll be having a Meet and Greet on April 26th at 9:00am. Meet at the La Brea Bakery Express in Downtown Disney! We have a new AllEars trading card to debut, too! Be sure to RSVP on our Facebook Event Page to receive a special gift when you arrive :)

On April 27th I head over to the Port of LA to embark on the first ever Disney Cruise Line Re-positioning cruise from LA to Vancouver! The 6-night cruise will bring the Disney Wonder ship to Canada for the start of the Alaska cruise season! Joining me will be AllEars® team member Laura Gilbreath (who will be blogging).

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I have some fun excursions planned including a Napa Valley Tour, a visit to Muir Woods and Sausalito, and then a visit to Butchart Gardens (check that off the "bucket list")

While on board we will have a Walk to Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer on May 1 at 8:00am.

I love being on board when a Disney ship visits a port of call for the very first time. You never know what surprises will greet the ship. The Wonder will be visiting San Francisco, then Victoria and Vancouver, Canada.

Once in Vancouver, several of us will be disembarking and then embarking on the Disney Wonder for the first ever Disney cruise in Alaska! I am excited to be hosting a great group of folks on the AllEars® Alaskan Adventure! In addition to visiting four fantastic parts of Alaska, we have some special events and surprises!

Check out this great logo that Picture This! Photo Blogger Barrie Brewer designed:

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We will stop at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway plus tour the glacier bay area of Tracy Arm! I really love visiting Alaska! It will be my third visit to Ketchikan and Juneau and second visit to Skagway. Each of the ports is very different and there is tons to do.

Last visit to Skagway we wandered about on our own, took the one-hour National Park Service walking tour and did a self-guided town tour. It's a quaint place that takes you back to the days of the Gold Rush. This trip I will be doing the White Pass Scenic Railway.

Juneau is one of the ports I could stay in for several days. On my first trip we took a helicopter over four glaciers (unbelievable surreal experience), then landed on a glacier and did dog sledding! We went over to the Mendenhall Glacier on our own. Did you know that Mendenhall is the most accessible glacier in Alaska and the only one accessible via road? It's a must-see if you visit Juneau.

My next trip to Juneau I did a Photo Safari that included a Whale Watching trip and a hike around the Mendenhall Glacier. This time, I will be taking the Deluxe Tour of Juneau, which includes a bus tour of the city, a visit to Mendenhall, a visit to the Glacier Gardens Rainforest, and finally an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery!

In Ketchikan we have toured the Alaskan Rainforest, which included some amazing animal (bear) sightings and we've also done the float plane and boat trip of Misty Fiords. This time I will be taking the Lighthouses, Totems and Eagles excursion. This excursion includes a boat ride to see Eagles, a visit to Totem Bight State Park and finally a visit to the Guard Island Lighthouse.

And after the amazing 13 nights on the Disney Wonder I will be flying to Orlando for two jammed packed days of D23's Destination D.

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whew.....


You can be sure I will be twittering and posting on Facebook during my trip.

And remember, Laura will be blogging during the two cruises!

So, for those who can't join us, be sure to follow our journey!

March 22, 2011

Disney Magic of Healthy Living - Partnering with Parents for Healthier Lifestyles

Last fall, The Walt Disney Company launched a new initiative to help parents raise healthy, happy children called Disney Magic of Healthy Living. It's a program encouraging smart eating and exercise through a year-long series of inspiring public service announcements featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and some Disney Channel stars, including Nick Jonas and Brenda Song.

Magic of Healthy Living PSAs feature the First Lady Michelle Obama and Disney Channel stars address food choices, activities, and portion sizes.

A highlight of the program was a national essay contest encouraging children across the country to write about their ideas for living a healthy life at home, at school or in their communities. Fifty winners were invited to Disney Magic of Healthy Living -- The Weekend, a special event at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney Magic of Healthy Living -- The Weekend, took place March 18-20, 2011.The 50 essay winners and their families came to Walt Disney World to explore a weekend of flavor and fun. The Weekend included a one-of-a-kind 'TRYathlon,' an imaginative and inspiring course "around the world" to TRY new foods, new moves, and new ways to live healthy.

The weekend kicked off with an opening ceremony dinner that featured Disney Channel stars Kenton Duty, Daniel Curtis Lee, Jennifer Stone, Alyson Stoner and Caroline Sunshine. The 2011 Disney Wide World of Sports Spirit Award Winner, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich and Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker, Barrett Rudd, were also on hand to join in the weekend's TRYathlon. Also, Disney Chef Gary Jones was on hand to share healthy culinary delights. Chef Gary is working with Disney chefs to create healthful, flavorful meals in both Disney restaurants and snack menus.

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed everyone to the Disney Magic of Healthy Living -- The Weekend by way of videocast.

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The Jammitors, as Jammin' Chefs, entertained the audience.

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AllEars.Net spoke to Disney Channel stars Kenton Duty and Alyson Stoner to learn more about their part in the Healthy Living Initiative:


Alyson Stoner voices Isabella Garcia-Shapiro on Phineas and Ferb and appeared in Camp Rock 2. She's been with the Disney Channel for 11 years and said she has seen huge positive changes in the food offered, with healthier options now. "As a family we are growing healthier together. We'd have pop (soda) with every meal -- we never reached for water. So we are rewiring our habits now."

Kenton Duty plays Gunther in the Disney Channel comedy series "Shake it Up," and he also appeared on "Lost" as young Jacob. Kenton, a self-proclaimed health nut, loves that his job involves so much dancing -- a great cardio exercise. His personal goal of being involved in the initiative is "to inspire kids to aspire to be the better them. Enjoy working out and exercising."

The Disney Magic of Healthy Living program offers online information for kids and parents on two new dedicated web sites: Disney.com/healthyfun is geared towards kids and Family.com/healthymagic offers resources for parents.


August 19, 2010

Casey's Corner Pianist - Jim on Main Street U.S.A.

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As you walk down Main Street U.S.A. you may be drawn to smells of popcorn and hot dogs coming from Casey's Corner. Many find Casey's a great place for a tasty "snack". But as you round the corner a delightful surprise is waiting for you - Jim the Ragtime Pianist!

Jim at Casey's Corner Piano

Jim has been tickling the ivories since the 1970s. He'll entertain you with a wide variety of Disney tunes, as well as some corny jokes and banter if you engage him.

Jim at Casey's Corner Piano

Jim is one of the "hidden treasures" of the Magic Kingdom.

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Grab a coke, hot dog or popcorn, take a seat and enjoy!


December 10, 2009

December Disney Doings

Deb Wills has been on a Disney cruise the last few days, and will spend the next few visiting Walt Disney World. She's been sharing some photos via Twitter as she travels, but for those of you who don't follow Twitter, we thought you might like to see what she's been getting up to -- so we've put her photos in her blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Port Canaveral Comes into View
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Port is all decked out
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Matt and Marissa check in at Port
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The Walt Suite @mouseworldradio
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The Roy Disney Suite on the Disney Wonder
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Sun is starting to peek thru the clouds at the Port
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@09reunion Mousefan Travel cabin gift
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getting ready for safety drill on the Disney Wonder.
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Sail Away Party
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Final breakfast on the Wonder
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Bye Bye Disney Wonder
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back in the "World"
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Ft Wilderness Cabin bedroom with bunk beds
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Ft. Wilderness Campsites are very decorated!!!
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Ft. Wilderness Management Team at Mickey's Backyard BBQ
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Hoop dee Doo dinner show!
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Boardwalk Lobby holiday decorations
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Breakfast at Kouzina at the Boardwalk!
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Yummy Kouzzina Breakfast Vegetable flatbread and BlueberryOrangeGranola Pancakes
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Grey cool day at Epcot
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Kaki-Gori meet with hosts @mikescopa @dinkybean (Masayo)
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Checkin for WDWtoday @09reunion event at American Adventure
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Relaxing reception at American Adventure WDWToday podcast
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Live WDWToday.com podcast from the American Adventure.
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Reception room 2nd Fl at Great American Podcast
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View of Epcot from 2nd floor American Adventure
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Live WDWToday.com Podcast in American Adventure
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A very special evening celebrating life at Disney!
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Enjoying a view of the Contemporary from Bay Lake Tower
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sometimes you just have to do room service! Disney's Boardwalk
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AllEars Jack Spence and Linda at Animal Kingdom
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Waiting to Enter Animal Kingdom
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Steve Barrett at AllEars Meet and Great
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Roseate spoonbill at Animal Kingdom
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Wonderful dinner as always at Flying Fish! Bob - awesome server!
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Sunday, December 13, 2009


Julia and Erwin also won $10 Disney Dollars for wearing their AllEars hats in the parks!
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Fonda and Bruce won $10 Disney Dollars for being spotted wearing AllEars hat and lanyard in Epcot today!
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Playing Kim Possible and saving the world!
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Epcot's World Showcase
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Beautiful afternoon in Epcot
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Mexico Attraction T-shirt
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Joyful gospel -- D'Vine Voices at Epcot -- Outstanding!
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Fred starts the Club Cool Meet NOW!
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@zannaland and @allearsdeb at Epcot Club Cool AllEars Meet
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Fred and AllEars friends at Club Cool meet toasting with Beverly
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Santa loves the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
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May 5, 2009

Online Check-in for Disney Vacation Club

I finally had a chance to experience the online check-in process for Disney Vacation Club Members.

You must first login to the Disney Vacation Club member website.

On the top horizontal nav bar, click on Vacation Planning Tools

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Then on the right vertical nav bar under My Membership click on View Vacation Details. Up will pop your reservations. For those who are within the Online Check-in Window you will see a rectangle that says "Enter Edit Check-in Information" Click there.

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If you wish to enter Celebration Information, click on that link and do so now.

Otherwise click on Enter Edit Check-in Information

This screen will appear:

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And this screen pops up a lot during the process:

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Fill in the pertinent information and click continue to the next screen:

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If you click on the link for "View Itinerary Details" you'll see the following:

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OK, now to the actual online check-in process. You'll see another opportunity to add Celebration Information.

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I clicked on the Add Celebration Information and got this screen. However when I clicked on "add more about this celebration" there was no active link.

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Now it's time to simply add your arrival :)


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Time for Credit Card Information and an opportunity to sign up for a Disney Visa Card:

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Check-in Information to fill out:

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Another screen that didn't quite work for me was the Room Requests link:

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I got to this screen, but then couldn't add anything no matter what I tried.


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Time for Credit Card Information:

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An email address for confirmation:

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Terms and Conditions must be agreed to. Be sure and scroll down to the bottom of the terms and check the box.

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Your Online Screen with Confirmation for Printing:

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And this is followed by a recap of all your information: Guests, Credit Card Information, Email Address, Check-in and out estimated times, and phone number.

By the time I finished and checked my email, a confirmation was there as well.

Part 2 -- We will see how much of a time-saver this turns out to be when I actually check in later this month!

December 7, 2008

Walt Disney World Mom's Panel 2009

I had the pleasure of meeting the 2009 Mom's Panel this morning. The 16 new Moms come from a variety of backgrounds and include a grandmother, a mom from Canada, one from the UK and a Disney Dad. This is the 2nd year for the Moms panel program.

Everyone was excited, enthusiastic, and even a tad nervous as they begin to embark on a year long adventure.

In addition to speaking to the new moms, I had the opportunity to speak to two of the original moms who are continuing with the program. Laura has joined the Media Relations group and her project for the year will be the mom's panel. And Kim will be answering Disney Cruise Line questions.

Here are some photos from this morning.

Mom's Panel 2009

Mom's Panel 2009

Mom's Panel 2009

Mom's Panel 2009

Mom's Panel 2009

Mom's Panel 2009

Mom's Panel 2009

October 30, 2008

Artist of the Day Followup

Earlier this month I told you about a fun activity for kids at the Contemporary called Artist of the Day. Several of you wrote and told me of your experiences and I want to share them.

It also turns out there are some other resorts with an Artist of the Day activity including Saratoga Springs and the Grand Floridian. So, be sure to ask at check-in if your resort offers this fun program!

Joe and Beth Thrash

We just got back from staying at the Contemporary. Our children (ages 2, 5, and 7) saw the Artist of the Day and all picked up pictures to color. We dropped them off that evening. The next morning the first thing they wanted to do was to go and check out who had won. To their surprise, all three were selected as Artist of the Day and had their pictures displayed. They were very excited and one of the cast members from the Grab and Go came over to congratulate them. They were all given special certificates and Mickey Rice Krispy treats as a prize for winning. We took photos of each one with their picture and we were also able to pick up the coloring page the next day. It was something very special for them.


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Leslie McElroy

We stayed at the Contemporary this summer and our kids colored an "Artist of the Day" picture one day during our trip. They dropped them off on our way to dinner and raced down the next morning, to find they'd both been selected as the Artist of the Day. They were thrilled to have their work hanging on the wall. I thought it was a really great and inexpensive way to bring a little magic to kids.


McElroy Kids


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Julianna Farleigh

Our daughter (now age 9) enters each day of our vacation until her coloring is chosen. Last year, when the Food 'N Fun Center chose her coloring, they displayed it in a table-top frame and placed it next to the coloring supplies. She received a certificate with her first name, date and location typed on it. This year, the Tempo Grab and Go displayed her coloring on the wall you have pictured, and she also received a Mickey Rice Krispy Treat and the Disney's Artist of the Day certificate. She has also entered at the Grand FL. Cafe where the coloring sheets are at the reception desk. At Disney's Contemporary, the chosen artwork is displayed for one day, and is then given back to the artist when they pick-up their certificate. We have never been notified that our daughter's artwork was chosen, we have always had to return to where they display the artwork to see if hers has been displayed and then ask a cashier for her "award."


Artist of the Day


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Cindy

The 'Artist of the Day' at the Contemporary Resort has been a part of the Food and Fun Center (former Quick Service Eatery) for quite a while and we were happy to see they're continuing with it at the new Tempo Grab and Go. My daughter has colored many pictures but alas has never been chosen as 'Artist of the Day'. It is fun for the kids to check every morning to see if they were picked and fun to see the kids who are picked as they are so excited!


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Christina

We stayed at the Contemporary in April of 07; and the Artist of the Day Was there. I was 15 at the time and did it with my brother and sister who were 9. We never did win; but everyday they allow pictures until after around lunch time and then they switch it the next morning.


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Lori Posey

We stayed at the Contemporary Resort back in February 2007. They had the Artist of the Day then also. It was located on the 1st floor where the Quick Serve counter was. My daughter Allie was very lucky and got selected as Artist of the Day. She loved having her pictured framed for all to see! They keep it up for the day. The next day we picked it up at the cashier and they also gave her a Year of a Million Dreams certificate stating she was the Artist of the Day! It was such a little thing but to a child it was like receiving gold!

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Beth DiSalvo

Just wanted to leave you a comment regarding the "Artist of the Day" at the Contemporary. As far as I know, this has been going on for quite some time. My son did this when it was at the "original" quick service location (now the Wave). He recieved a "Magical Moment" certificate - and I think they gave him a cookie.

I also know that Artist Palette in Saratoga Springs has the Artist of the Day as well.


October 18, 2008

Epcot's JAMMitors er JAMMin Chefs!

As I meandered around Future World during my recent trip, I heard a commotion and turned around to see what it was. My initial thoughts were that it must be the JAMMitors!

They've been entertaining guests in Epcot for many years. Hmm. I 'm not sure when they began in Epcot. Does anyone know?

Here's an early photo of them that I still have on the website on the Epcot Entertainment Page:

JAMMitors

But, I digress. So as I turned around, it wasn't the JAMMitors, but it must have been relatives of theirs known as the JAMMin Chefs (I think that's the right title). They were making special appearances during Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.

They were having a grand time making music on a variety of pots, pans, and boxes. They also entertained the crowd with a variety of "corny" jokes. All in all good fun and just another one of Epcot's great Live Entertainment acts!!!

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot

JAMMin Chefs in Epcot


The JAMMitors have their own page on the Walt Disney World website.

October 12, 2008

Artist of the Day - Contemporary Resort

While exploring the Contemporary recently, I found a little area entitled Artist of the Day. It is located on the 4th floor near the entrance to Tempo Grab and Go.

Artist of the Day

The sign reads: "Artist of the Day" If you would like to participate, please choose a coloring page located below, and be sure to get a package of crayons.

When you have finished, please write your name and room number on the back of your page and place art work in the space provided below.

If your page is selected it will be framed and placed on display. Thank you for participating. If you have any questions, please ask a Cast Member."

The photos below show 2 framed pieces of art.

Artist of the Day

Also, you can see the areas to obtain the drawing, crayons and place to deposit your completed work.

Artist of the Day

If anyone has their child try this, please let me know how it worked!

I couldn't find anyone that seemed to know how long this would be here. Perhaps until the construction walls are removed?

The sign doesn't say you must be staying at the Contemporary to participate. However, the request of your room number on the coloring sheet pretty much narrows it to resort guests.


October 7, 2008

West African Crowned Crane at Disney's Animal Kingdom

West African Crowned Crane


Whenever I am wandering around Animal Kingdom, I always try to look for new species or better yet, little babies. I've been pretty fortunate over the years to see a number of the park's offspring. I've seen baby elephants, giraffes, spoonbills, gibbons and this time a baby West African Crowned Crane.

It took asking several Cast Members before one was able to identify the bird for me. I had taken digital photos in the morning and then showed them to Cast Members during the day. When you have animal or bird questions, try to find a Cast Member in a green shirt. They are usually the ones who work with the animals. Although on the Pangani Forest Exploration and Maharajah Jungle Trek trails, the Cast Members will sometimes be in costume.

Animal Kingdom Signage for West African Crowned Crane


Here are some photos of the 6 week old male West African Crowned Crane. You can find him in the Discovery Island trails. He's various shades of brown. I was told he would develop his "crown" and turn colors as he gets older. The 2 adults were very close to him and seemed to be watching things very closely!

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

The sign in Discovery Island (photo above) says:
"We live in flocks of a hundred or more,
When not in the breeding season.
And Stamp on the ground with our feet as we walk,
It seems odd but we have good reason.

We stamp on the ground to make the bugs jump,
Then eat them before they fall.
At sunrise we haid the start of the day,
With a powerful trumpeting call."

The Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park says this about the West African Crowned Crane: "Balearica pavonia - Highly social, pair off usually for life, assume joint responsibility with their mate for offspring".

You also may be able to find the West African Crowned Cranes during your Kilimajaro Safari Ride.

Additional information can be found at the following website:

Philadelphia Zoo

October 1, 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction Update

I had the opportunity to wander around the Contemporary Resort a few days ago (September 26, 2008). Here are some construction updates for the Disney Vacation Club Bay Lake Tower.


Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008

Bay Lake Tower Construction September 2008


For more information visit:

Bay Lake Tower Information Sheet and Photographs

Photographs of the Studio Model for Bay Lake Tower

Photographs of One Bedroom Model for the Bay Lake Tower

August 26, 2008

Epcot's The Land - Circa 1982-1984

This is another in my sporadic series of "Step Back in Time" blogs -- this one returns to Epcot and the Land Pavilion.

The Land opened in Epcot's Future World on October 1, 1982 and was sponsored by Kraft. When the initial 10 year contract was up, Nestle became the new sponsor November 1992.

When the pavilion opened, the following components were in the building:

Listen to the Land Boat Ride - take a gentle cruise through various climates and learn about the history of farming. As the ride continued, you were taken into the future to see new and innovative techniques of both land and sea farming. While the ride is basically the same today, it has gone through several rehabs where the music and narration has changed.

Harvest Theatre - Symbiosis, an 18 minute film, explored the relationship between humans and their environment. The Harvest Theatre is still part of the pavilion, but now houses the environmental focused Circle of Life - Lion King movie with Timon and Pumba.

Kitchen Kaberet - these fun animated foods taught us about healthy eating and starred Bonnie Appetit, the Kitchen Krackpots and Hamm n Eggz. This attraction closed January 3, 1994 and gave way to Food Rocks on March 26, 1994 to make it more contemporary. Then on January 3, 2004, it was closed for good. Soarin now occupies that space once held by the singing fruits and vegies.

Farmer's Market - 8 fast food booths offering wholesome and nutritious meals and snacks. Now called Sunshine Seasons

Broccoli & Co. - the souvenir store. As always, there is a merchandise store in every area.

The Good Turn Restaurant - a 250 seat revolving full service restaurant. It's gone through several name changes (including the Land Grille Room) and today is the Garden Grill.


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The Land - Discover at Epcot -- Harvest new knowledge about man's relationship with planet Earth and dig into advanced food-growing technologies.

** Hydroponics
** Symbiosis and Resource Conservation
** History and Future of Agriculture
** Nutrition
** Aquaculture

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Here are some postcards from the early days ...


"LAND - Explore creative partnerships with the land. Set sail for "Tomorrow's Harvest". Sing along at a show that has the whole town cooking. And enjoy country-store fun, food and flavor."


The Land Epcot Postcard


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"Listen to the Land - in the "country fair" setting of the Land pavilion, review age old agriculture techniques. Then, sail through the environments of the world and glimpse Tomorrow's Harvest."


The Land Epcot Postcard

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"The Kitchen Krackpots - During your tour through The Land, you will see a wacky show which tells the story of nutrition in a very unusual way." Notice that this postcard does refer to the Kitchen Krackpots which was the name of the band that played at the Kitchen Kaberet.

The Land Epcot Kitchen Krackpots

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"Seasoned Performers flavor some spicy numbers on good nutrition at the Kitchen Kaberet, in the Land pavilion. Acts include Fiesta Fruit, Dairy Goods, and the hit of the Breakfast Circuit, Ham n Eggz".

Kitchen Kaberet - The Land Epcot Postcard

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The following photographs are digital images of the PanaVue slides that were sold at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot in the 80s.

The Land Epcot PanaVue Slide

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The Land Epcot PanaVue Slide


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The Land Epcot PanaVue Slide


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The Land Epcot PanaVue Slide


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The Land Epcot PanaVue Slide


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Here are some websites that offer photos and/or information about the early days of the Land:

All Ears Kitchen Kaberet Archives

Epcot Field Guide - The Land


Lost Epcot Features descriptions and photos from the early days of the Land.

Do you have photos from the 1980s of the Land Pavilion or any of it's attractions? I'd love to see them and possibly include them in a future blog. Please send to
allearsnet at yahoo dot com

Thanks!

May 10, 2008

A Wild Decade - Animal Kingdom Turns 10!

On April 22, 2008 Animal Kingdom theme park proudly turned 10 years young!

Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

In conjuction with Walt Disney World and Animal Kingdom, the WDWCelebrations.com team hosted their 2nd anniversary event, A Wild Decade. You may recall these were the same folks that brought you Celebration 25 -honoring Epcot's 25 years in 2007.

Registration for the Wild Decade closed a few weeks prior at 400. Not too shabby considering the event was on a Tuesday!

Check-in began bright and early near the Animal Kingdom ticket booths. Then the lines to get into the park quickly developed.

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary


Animal Kingdom offered just a few events to commemorate the birthday.
First, a Re-Dedication Ceremony at park opening, hosted by Erin Wallace, Joe Rohde and Jane Goodall.

Animal Kingdom Re-Dedication Ceremony with Erin Wallace, Joe Rohde and Jane Goodall


Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary Crowd awaiting Ceremony

After the ceremony, Animal Kingdom Vice President Val Bunting greeted guests at the Attraction Times board. The first photo is Adam Roth and Val. The next one is me with Val.

Adam Roth and Val Bunting

Deb Wills and Val Bunting


Then there was a very special opportunity to hear Joe Rohde speak in the Theatre in the Wild. He is quite the storyteller and it's easy to see why he is such a successful imagineer! His facial expressions really added to the talk.

Special thanks to Patty Cook, who I met at the talk, for the cool photographs of Joe.

We have the audio for listening.

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Lastly, Joe was available for autographs and photographs from 1-2pm in the afternoon. Here is AllEars Team Member Linda Mac with Joe!

Joe Rohde and LindaMac


Soon it was time for the WDWCelebrations.com Wild Decade events to begin!

The Wild Decade had their first attraction meet of the day enjoying Finding Nemo the Musical. From there, it was on to Expedition Everest!

At 2pm, the now traditional History Walk took place. Prior to the walks beginning, there was a very special visit by Animal Kingdom Vice President Val Bunting. Not only did she speak with the Wild Decade group, she entertained a few questions from the crowd and then stayed on for photo ops and even some pin trading. I asked Val about future attractions and new animal species that may be coming to the park. She replied with the standard Disney answer... we're always looking at new opportunities.....etc etc! In otherwords, no special announcements on April 22nd!

Attendees were split into 2 groups for the History Walk, one led by John C and one by Tom Corless. I attended Tom's walk and really enjoyed it. I even learned a few new things that I can share with friends on our next adventure to the park!! To the WDWCelebrations Team - kudos on the history talk!!!

Tom Corliss History Walk of Animal Kingdom Asia

Tom Corliss History Walk of Animal Kingdom

Next, the folks at Animal Kingdom reserved 2 of the areas at the Flame Tree BBQ for Wild Decade Attendees to use for dinner. That really worked well. People were able to mingle and have some down time together. It was VERY nice.

At about 6:15pm, most of us having now been in the park almost 12 hours, I was starting to get tired. There were 2 events I still wanted to get to....but made the decision to forgo the last meet on Dinosaur!

We gathered outside DinoLand USA for a presentation. The Wild Decade organizers, led by 17-year-old Adam Roth, presented a $500 check to author Lou Mongello (The Walt Disney World Trivia Book) to go to the Dream Team charity he has established, which benefits terminally ill children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Adam and Jason present Lou with the Make-A-Wish Donation

Afterwards we posed for a group photo that was a lot of fun to organize.

Wild Decade Group Photo

Larger Wild Decade Group Photo Image

Soon it wsa time to say goodbyes. The day went WAY too fast but the memories will last a long time.

Thanks to Val Bunting, Joe Rohde, the Cast Members who helped create Animal Kingdom and those that have worked there over the years, the WDWCelebrations team and all the attendees who made this a wonderful day.

Their next event, a World Wide Weekend will be held in late September. Registration is already open. I'll be there, will you?


May 1, 2008

All Ears Meet at Epcot's Imagination - April 20, 2008

It's been a while since we had an All Ears meet outside of MouseFest, so I decided to have one the weekend prior to Animal Kingdom's 10th Anniversary.

Let me digress just a bit. I flew in Saturday and stayed at the Dolphin. I had a wonderful room with a small balcony and view of Epcot's IllumiNations!!

Walt Disney World Dolphin Guest Room

Shortly after check-in, my Owner's Lockers were delivered! What did I ever do without them?!

Owner's Lockers


I had a great breakfast before the meet at Fresh, with team member Linda Mac. Fresh is a Mediterranean inspired buffet on the first floor of the Dolphin. It serves Breakfast, Lunch and Starbucks coffee!!

For me, it's one of the best kept secrets in Disney. The food is made fresh, most of it to order and it doesn't have the frantic atmosphere of a Disney Resort eatery. Hence, I ate here actually 3 times during my stay.

As LindaMac and I entered Epcot and walked toward Future World, team member Jack Spence called on the phone to meet up. Right after we found Jack, we also found Elton - a Disney Dream Team Cast Member. With his great smile, I just had to take a photograph.

Jack and Elton in Epcot


One of the things I typically forget to do at meets, is take a photo of the AllEars team. So this time, I made sure we did it as soon as everyone arrived. From left to right: Jack Spence, Deb Wills, Glo from Miami, and Linda Mac. (Thanks to the Cast Member who play photog)

All Ears Team in Epcot

Soon folks began to arrive. We had new AllEars buttons to hand out as well as hats to keep the sun out of your eyes. There were AllEars T-Shirts for the person who traveled the farthest (Illinois). And, oh yes, we had stickers too for all kids and coughadultscough in the group. It was a fantastic turnout!

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008
Larger Image of Group Photo.

Here are meet photos of people arriving and headed into the attraction.....

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008


Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008


Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

...Loading into the Ride Vehicles for Journey into Your Imagination...

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008

Epcot Imagination Meet Photograph April 20, 2008


At the conclusion of the ride, many folks continued onto the second half of the meet, lunch in the Land at Sunshine Seasons.

The Land in Epcot


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph

AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph

AllEars Lunch Meet Photograph


On behalf of LindaMac, Jack, Glo and myself...thank you everyone for spending part of your vacation with us!!!

February 9, 2008

February WDW Trip Report Part 2, Saturday 2/2/08

Saturday was spent with a family who I've known for several years. Bonny and Andrew have a special daughter named MJ who is featured (page 246) in the PassPorters Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line book I co-authored.

MJ is a 7 year old girl with multiple disabities including Right Cerebral Cortex Polymicrogyria, autism, epilepsy, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder; to name a few. Her language is limited to single words and some sign language, but spending a day with her is a special treat beyond words. It's been amazing over the years to see what her many many trips to Disney parks has done to help her become more alive, more verbal.

Our day began with breakfast at Cape May Cafe. MJ is fed only by a feeding tube and therefore does not eat or drink. She does enjoy Character Meals. She also enjoys cutting food while the rest of us eat.

Today was a celebration of MJ's birthday (which is later this week). Minnie was the first to wish her a Happy Birthday.

MJ and Minnie

Dale stopped by for some chair dancing with MJ.
MJ and Dale

After breakfast we headed to Animal Kingdom. We were still in the Oasis when we realized it was time for White Spoonbill eggs. In the photo below, one Spoonbill had just moved away from sitting on the eggs and another came over and turned them around. About this time, All Ears team member Linda Mac joined us!

Spoonbill and Eggs

Being in a park with MJ is not your typical day in a park. It's a slow stroll with her pointing to various parts of the park that she wants to visit. Her mom will ask, Do you want to go to Planet Watch? and she will either motion or speak, yes or no. And believe me, she knows the names of everything in the park!

Along the way, we encountered Terk. MJ just LOVES to rub Terk's belly!
MJ and Terk

Next was the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch.

Deb and MJ on the Wildlife Express Train


MJ loves all the hands on items and especially being able to pet the animals. "Touch, touch", is what she says about the rabbit below.

MJ and the rabbit

She was also quite fascinated with the cage the rabbit traveled in.

MJ looking at the rabbit cage

Soon Jiminy Cricket appeared..... It was amazing that he had no line of folks waiting to see him. He took the opportunity to spend extra time with MJ. She was showing him the bird's nest that had 3 babies in it.

MJ and Jiminy


And I couldn't resist the chance for a photo-op with Jiminy!

Deb and Jiminy

Next up was lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. I had a Turkey Sandwich on a multi-grain roll. And while the roll was on the dry side, it must be low on the glycemic index as just a low dose of insulin took care of it!

After lunch, we planned to see Finding Nemo the Musical. However, MJ had about had enough of the crowds so we headed back to her house.

One of MJ's friends gave her a Belle dress for her birthday! Here she is modeling for us.

MJ dressed as Belle

Here is MJ with LindaMac, whom she called "Mac" and her dog Coco.

MJ, Linda Mac and Coco


MJ and Deb just hanging out.

MJ and Deb

A wonderful day had come to an end and it was time to head back to the resort. Originally I was going to call it a night, but then realized I was very hungry. LindaMac said she could eat also and we managed to get a resservation for Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian for 6:15pm. We could just make it.... A great dinner and server and company......Saturday came to an end.

Tomorrow...my day with NO plans at all! WOW!

February 5, 2008

Spaceship Earth - Epcot

Tomorrow's child (Tomorrow's Child)
Gathering gifts from our past.
Tomorrow's child (Tomorrow's Child)
Shaping a world that will last...

Ah, that song brings back fond memories of Epcot's early days. I still vividly remember my first trip to Epcot in 1991.

It seemed that every attraction I entered included a song with a catchy tune that stayed with me.

I recall walking around Epcot singing tunes like:

One little spark, imagination...

The Universe of Energy.....

Tomorrow's Child......

When I returned home and one of those tunes popped into my head, it always brought a smile to my face.

It was with great anticipation that I rode the recently reopened Spaceship Earth, signature Icon of Epcot.

This is the type of attraction that I believe allowed the Disney theme parks to rise above the rest of the "amusement parks". It is storytelling and imagineering at its best.

As I've gotten older, I'm less than thrilled when attractions such as Mission Space open, but I realize not everyone is like me. For the parks to remain alive and vibrant, attractions must reach all ages. But, if I have my druthers, I'd rather see 2008 era enhancements like the Haunted Mansion just went through.. and yes, Spaceship Earth!

I had read that Emmy®-award winning composer Bruce Broughton conducted a 63-piece orchestra and 24-voice choir for a new musical score for Spaceship Earth. I was hoping that it would include a catchy tune that I could hum when I returned home... to remind me of my magical adventure in WDW.

I also read about Dame Judi Dench doing the new narration. And while I wasn't going to miss Jeremy Irons so much, I can still hear Walter Cronkite's words in my head. Yes, this is one of those attractions that has always held great memories and meaning for me.

The signage around the attraction is new, simple, futuristic, silver and blue.

Spaceship Earth Wait Time Sign

The entrance mural is the same. I wouldn't have minded a new mural but I enjoyed seeing the space shuttle and space walker once again.

The vehicles have not been changed, but each row has had a new flat screen added to it. This screen makes up the entire last half of the ride. It's still a little tough getting in and out of them. Not so much due to the moving platform, but the small width that the "door" opens to allow you to enter and exit the actual vehicle.


Spaceship Earth vehicle

Ah... as our time machine started up the incline, I began to immediately noticed changes. The scenery was cleaned up, repainted and oh my.... new things have been added. Right away I noticed subtle and not so subtle enhancements and they kept coming.... it seemed as though each scene had something new added. The new audio-animatronics are amazing, very realistic and really brought each area to life.

I must admit it was hard for me to focus on the narration because I was so involved in looking at all the new additions. Periodically I heard Dame Judi's voice, but my head was filled with thoughts of "WOW", "That's new", "How cool!", etc. Because of that, I can't really comment on the new narration.

As the time vehicle slowly ascended into the Spaceship Earth buildingI remembered thinking, I need to get right back on this so I could see everything again!!!! I was even more excited than when I saw all the wonderful enhancements at the Haunted Mansion.

Here are a few of the new scenes. (Please note these photos were taken with a Digital SLR camera and NO flash was used.)

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Can you see now why I was so excited about the changes and the new scenes? Even the ones that didn't change a bit, were touched up to become more, hmm... life like!

Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived. At the height of the ride we did spend a fair amount of time looking at the star studded galaxy and the earth (always one of my favorite scenes). But the impact still isn't what it was with the powerful musical score of the Walter Cronkite narration days.

And then, our vehicles slowly rotated for the backwards descent. I had heard from many readers that the entire last portion of the ride focused around the video screen.

Indeed, the screen came on and we were asked questions about where we wanted to live, vacation preferences, etc. The photo that was taken of us near the beginning of the ride then became part of the cartoon. Our vehicle's photo was only of me, not the person riding with me, so the 2nd individual in my cartoon was just that, a cartoon face. I could see the vehicle in front of ours had 2 faces, so I guess our photo didn't turn out right.

After answering the questions, a short cartoon video plays. It was pretty funny, at least initially. I heard giggles from others around us, especially the kids.

But the more I watched the video screen, the more I started not feeling so good - I was getting queasy. I do suffer from motion sensitivity, but the slow ride backwards in Spaceship Earth never bothered me before. But now, concentrating on the screen in the vehicle, I quickly became nauseous. I tried looking up, but the row of lights tunnel we were passing through didn't help much. I just closed my eyes. Bummer, I thought to myself.

Wow, what a let down. I wasn't interested in jumping right back on. As outstanding as the first half of the ride was, the last half was equally disappointing.

I will return to enjoy all the new scenes and additions on a future trip, but I'll not be playing the computer quiz and watching the cartoon on the way down. If you have motion sensitivity issues, beware of this section of the ride. A friend who has epilepsy told me that the strands of lights in the descent tunnel were very bothersome to him.

To the imagineers who designed the first half of the ride, you did an incredible job! One I am sure Walt would be VERY proud of. In fact, you outdid yourselves. It reminded me of the first time I entered Epcot. I could see it over and over again.... and I left with the feeling of wanting to return immediately.

But whether it was a lack of money, or time, or this 50something baby boomer is just not "hip" anymore, I was disappointed in the ending. And that combined with the motion issues, will sadly remove Spaceship Earth from my "Must See Every Trip List".

Oh, and that musical score I was so anxious to hear....well sitting here a few days later, I can't remember one note of it. Quite honestly, it may have been because I was so focused on the new scenes. So to be fair, I'll pay more attention to both the music and narration on my next visit.

In the old A-E attraction ticket days, I would have rated the first half of Spaceship Earth a huge EEEEEEEE (the best). But the last half gets a generous B ticket.

Many thanks to AllEars blogger Lisa Berton for the inside photos of Spaceship Earth which appear in this blog.

Note: The Tomorrow's Child verse I started the blog with, used to be played during the ending of Spaceship Earth, as you were traveling backwards in the descent. It was several rehabs ago, so some of you may not recognize it.

To read other comments about the reopened Spaceship Earth, visit:

November 8, 2007

Sunday at the World

Sometimes it's hard to finish a trip report once home, but here is the conclusion of my late October adventure to WDW.

In case you missed the earlier posts here are the links:
Heading to Walt Disney World
Magic Kindgom Friday Part 1
Magic Kingdom Friday Part 2
Segway Saturday Part 1
Segway Saturday Part 2

Despite a very late night at the Studios for the Tower of Terror 13K race, I had an early morning meeting. I met with Brian and John from Owners Locker at Boatrights, Port Orleans Riverside. These guys offer a great service for storing your "stuff" between trips to the world. Be sure to check them out.

John and Brian from Owner's Locker

Epcot Cast Member Patti and I had a nice chat as I entered the park through the International Gateway.

Cast Member Patti

Once inside Epcot I met my friends from Japan, Masayo and Nozomi and AllEars team member Linda Mac. We had some fun at the Canada pavilion waiting for the O Canada movie to open.


Canada Fun

As we walked through the United Kingdom, we met All Ears fans! Always love meeting our readers!

All Ears Fans

One of the things I love best about Disney parks is the attention to detail. I never noticed that each of these have a different geometric pattern on them.


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Masayo stops to sample the sushi at the Japan Food Booth.


Masayo in Japan Food Booth


While in Japan, we enjoyed Miyuki's show of candy art. What a wonderful time! Miyuki spent a few moments with us after her show, it was very special. She also enjoyed speaking with Masayo and Nozomi who both are from Japan.

Miyuki

I left Epcot via the Boardwalk. A great deal of exterior work is occurring to the Inn side of the Boardwalk.

Boardwalk Rehab

Upon arriving back at Port Orleans Riverside, I was surprised by the package on my door. I had left the "Privacy" sign up and housekeeping left me a bag with fresh towels and soaps. Nice touch.

Laundry Bag at Port Orleans

A dinner at Artist Point with friends Steve, Vickie and Beci rounded out the weekend. Early Monday morning I was on a plane back to Maryland. Southwest Airlines is going full steam ahead to get their boarding areas redone. Starting November 8th, including some new ticket options.

October 28, 2007

Segway Saturday Part 1

What a great day! I was a bit concerned by the early morning weather report. It basically said rain off and on all day in Orlando. Fortunately, I was barely drizzled upon.

Bright and early I was off to POP Century to have breakfast with Masayo and Nozomi. We each enjoyed the croissant sandwich (egg, bacon and cheese). Soon it was time to drive to Ft. Wilderness and begin our Ft. Wilderness Back Trail Segway Adventure.

After parking in the main lot at Ft. Wilderness, we walked to the bus depot to catch an internal bus to the area where Mickey's Backyard BBQ pavilion resides. We not only met up with LindaMac here, but also 3 ladies I had cruised with a couple years ago on the Mexican Riviera. Rose told me they had just gotten back from the Disney Vacation Club Member cruise. They thought it was excellent and enjoyed all the Disney legend guest speakers. It really did sound wonderful.

We arrived at the Backyard BQQ location and were joined by our other friend, Mike Newell of MouseWorldRadio.com. Our tour guides, Ron and Frank, were great instructors - very patient and information. We went thru a series of moves on the segway, one at a time...slowly gaining confidence.

Soon we were traveling along the paths of Ft. Wilderness. Not only did we go on paved areas but also dirt and mulched areas of the resort as well. These special "all terrain" segways are quite amazing. We probably spent a good hour touring around. After exploring much of Ft. Wilderness, we took the nature trail to the Wilderness Lodge and then returned to the Fort.

It was an amazing time and one we all highly recommend!

Next for me, was lunch at the Dolphin's FRESH. It was wonderful as always. I really like the fact that the food sizes are small, allowing you to sample many different things. The chefs were all very helpful and accommodating. Javier, our server, was very pleasant and attentive. Plus, another perk of dining at the Dolphin is they serve Starbucks coffee...yummm!

I returned to the room to check email and do some work. I took a nap and then got ready for dinner and to attend the Tower of Terror 13k race as a cheerer

More to follow including photos.....

October 27, 2007

Magic Kingdom Friday Part 2

Friday continued.....

Tod and Sue accompanied me around the Magic Kingdom as I took photos and got menus. I ran into David, the Cast Member I had met earlier at Peter Pan. He was very nice and made me smile in Neverland, so I made a point to stop and chat with him as his duties changed to trash pickup.

Cast member David

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When we reached Tomorrowland we decide to ride the TTA. As we exited I saw PUSH the talking trash can for the first time ever. I know the photo isn't the greatest, but when was the last time you tried to photograph a moving trash can LOL.


PUSH the Talking Trash Can

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We then went into the Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Tod and Sue had not seen it before and my only time was during the soft opening. It certainly has gotten better since my first visit back in January. Tod and Sue both enjoyed it; Sue said it was a strong "C" ticket attraction and Tod felt it was between a "C" and "D" ticket.

Monsters Inc Comedy Club

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All too soon it was time for me to head off and say goodbye to Tod and Sue. As I arrived at the Polynesian, I hit the "trifecta" by seeing all 4 hosts of WDW Today podcast, Mike, Matt, Len and Mike. We, along with Beci from MEI and MouseFanTravel enjoyed lunch at the Kona Cafe.


WDW Today Podcast Hosts

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After lunch I went over to Pleasure Island to get my ticket for Saturday night's Tower of Terror Race Party. It was like a homecoming seeing so many familiar faces and friends! One of the first people I saw was Masayo, my friend from Japan. She introduced me to her friend Nozomi.


Masayo and Nozomi

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The inside of Motions was quite crowded with folks not only getting the TOT party tickets, but also their race packets! It was here I met up with All Ears team member, Linda Mac.


Tower of Terror Race Logo

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Outside, I found some of my friends from Tagrel.com. Many of them are participating in the race Saturday evening!

Tagrel.com friends

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Linda Mac and I wandering into the Marketplace area with Masayo and Nozomi and did a little shopping. We walked right past the new construction site of TRex, the themed restaurant opening next year at Downtown Disney.

TRex construction

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I headed back to Port Orleans to get some rest before heading out to Epcot for the evening. Unfortunately, I was much more tired that I thought and had to cancel my plans to nosh around the world with AllEars team member Laura Gilbreath and her husband, Lee. :(

I grabbed some dinner at the food court and called it a night.

Coming on Saturday - Ft. Wilderness Segway Tour and Tower of Terror Race Party.


October 26, 2007

Magic Kingdom Friday Part 1

I awoke bright and early this morning, ready to head over to the Magic Kingdom! I was very excited about seeing the newly rehabbed Haunted Mansion.

The early morning is always pretty, even if it is very cloudy! This is the pool in the Arcadian Section of Port Orleans Riverside.


Port Orleans Riverside Pool

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And as I made my way to the food court, I had to stop and take this photo....


Riverside Mill

After a ham and cheese omelet at the Riverside Mill I made my way to the Magic Kingdom via the Dolphin.


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You'll find the entrance to the Dolphin (street side) under construction and walled off. You must head left past the regular entrance to get to the temporary entrance in the convention center. The actual doors are being totally removed and new sliding doors installed in their place. One Cast member told me it would be finished in December, the other said it would be 3-4 months.


Dolphin Entrance

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As I walked into the Magic Kingdom, I saw Chicken Little and Pinocchio in front of City Hall posing for photographs. Walking down Main Street, several Cast Members were welcoming guests with Mickey Gloves.

Cast member on Main Street

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I barely walked a few steps and there was the Mayor of Main Street greeting guests as they began their day. He was kind enough to stop and catch a photo with me.

Mayor of Main Street

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The Magic Kingdom really was decked out in fall / Halloween decorations.

Castle and Halloween Decorations

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The lands weren't yet opened and instead of standing at the rope drop, I hung back on Main Street to enjoy the atmosphere. I was quite surprised when I found an empty Frontierland about 9:15 this morning

Frontierland

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First stop was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which reopened yesterday after a month long rehab. While there are no "new" effects or scenes (according to the Cast Members) there were some general enhancements to the scenery as well as upgraded audio! It was as Wild a Ride as always!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Train


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Soon it was time to meet my friends Tod and Sue from Michigan. I've known them over 9 years and have spent many a great vacation with them. We rode the Haunted Mansion together, not once but twice. We were all excited about the changes to the Mansion. Kudos to the Imagineers and all who were involved in this upgrade! The changes are numerous, so you may want to ride a couple times, as we did. Definitely back on the must see each trip list!

Tod and Sue at the Haunted Mansion

To be continued...Friday Part 2

September 23, 2007

Quick Overnight to Walt Disney World

I just got back from a quick trip to WDW and I do mean quick - less than 20 hours! I had a meeting to attend on Thursday, so I took advantage of the Southwest Ding fares to fly into Orlando on Wednesday evening. I had hoped to do some exploring once I checked in, but the flight was almost an hour late arriving in Orlando.

For those of you who fly Southwest, they recently made an announcement about a slightly revised boarding process. They will still board in groups of A, B, and C; but A and B will now have 60 persons in each group. In addition each boarding pass will be numbered. So Group A 1-5 is announced and boards first. The idea is to get rid of the "cattle" call. Another change may be in the near future, giving priority seating to those paying full price for tickets.. but that's just a rumor.

The Wilderness Lodge is an awesome as always. Ranger Stan was on vacation so I didn't get to chat with him. However, Jack (from the Old Faithful Club Concierge) was filling in for him. Jack is a great Cast Member, very knowledgeable and "hosts" a fantastic Flag Family experience.

Ranger Jack

I didn't get a photo, but some of the Dansani Water bottles now have Tinker Bell and the Castle on the label.

I arrived at the Animal Kingdom Lodge early and took the opportunity to check out the Arusha Savannah. In just a few moments I saw several giraffe and zebra. The Anakole cattle were off in the distance.

Giraffes on the Arusha Savannah


Work continues at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas. Workers could be seen on both the inside halls ways (from the lobby) and outside the resort. And construction continues on the new animal barn and Kidani Disney Vacation Club Resort. (More on that in an upcoming post).

Construction Workers outside the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Inside Lodge Rooms closed off

I was able to see one of the new Disney Vacation Club Grand Villas in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. One of the Cast Members was kind enough to point out numerous "Hidden Mickeys" for me. I'll be sending the photos to fellow AllEars blogger and Hidden Mickey guru Steve Barrett! Here is a sample of what you'll find on the shower curtain.

Shower Curtain Hidden Mickey

My whirlwind tour of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney Vacation Club Preview Center at Saratoga Springs was over way to quickly and it was soon time to leave for the airport.

Late last year I had applied for a CLEAR card for the Orlando Airport (one of 11 participating airports). This was my first time using the CLEAR system. It worked REALLY well!

Here's the brief description of CLEAR from their website: "Travelers who join the Clear Registered Traveler program are pre-screened for security and provided with a biometric card which allows them to pass through security faster, with more predictability and less hassle."

This program is not for everyone as you are required to supply lots of personal information as well as allow fingerprinting and iris scanning. It is $100 per year. Unless you are a frequent user of the CLEAR participating airports this program isn't for you.

I will say, it couldn't have been any simpler or quicker! I walked up to the area and identified myself. The whole process took about 5 minutes. I showed my CLEAR card, boarding pass and photo ID to the staff person. Check. Next, stand on a machine, insert my clear card, put my thumb on the slot. Check. While doing that, my shoes/feet are scanned and my thumbprint checked to match that recorded on my card. Check! or should I say CLEAR!
Then, I was escorted to the head of the security line, put my items on the belt and I was on my way. No need to remove my shoes (although TSA) can always request you do so.

Once I got to the Orlando Airport B Terminal, I noticed a few things that had changed since my last visit in April of this year. Not far from where you exit the shuttle is a kiosk for the Disney Credit card. They were giving away a non-descript white Mickey t-shirt for applying.

The eatery area is still under construction but 2 new venues have opened: Au Bon Pain and a bar and grill. Nice additions to the otherwise, McDonalds and Sabaro Pizza counters. I had a smoked turkey sandwich with Swiss Cheese from AuBon and it was very good. Fresh Romaine lettuce and tasty turkey! The salads looked good too!

Usually my flights on Southwest are very full and there is rarely an open seat near me. This time, however, I lucked out - less than 50 persons on the plane. I really got to enjoy an entire empty row! WOW! Talk about luxury!


August 2, 2007

Low/No Sugar Sports Drinks

I'm getting ready for my Adventures by Disney trip to the Southwestern US which begins in less than 2 weeks. As part of that preparation, I've been looking for powdered "sports drinks" to bring with me.

SugarFree Sports PowdersJust what is a "sports drink" anyway and does it really matter?! Ever since I can remember, we were "told" to drink Gatorade to replenish our electrolytes during periods of intense physical activity. When I trained for my 60 mile walks a few years back, we were told it was extremely important to drink sports drinks in addition to water. The reason? Simply put, you don't want heat-related illnesses. These beverages add some electrolytes back into your body.

Properly prepare for your activity and avoid issues with heat exhaustion! Signs of heat-related illness include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness or headache, a "sick stomach" feeling or vomiting, and faintness. Untreated, the much more serious heatstroke can come quickly on the heels of heat exhaustion. (More information can be found reading the AllEars "Summer Sun Survival" page)

According to Wikipedia, "Sports drinks are not to be confused with energy drinks. Sports drinks are intended to replenish electrolytes, sugar, water, and other nutrients, and are usually isotonic (containing the same proportions as found in the human body). Energy drinks, on the other hand, simply provide lots of sugar and caffeine." Caffeine, like alcoholic beverages, can cause dehydration so be careful with those!

Drinking sports drinks becomes important when you are exerting yourself in the heat, be it on the trail or even at Walt Disney World!

Walt Disney World sells PowerAde, a Coca-Cola product. One regular size bottle has 30 Carbs! Gatorade is the brand name of another popular sports drink. It has approximately 14 carbs for every 8 ounces.

As a Type I Diabetic, I can't use the regular sports drinks.. way too much sugar. So, in preparation for my Adventures by Disney trip, I have been experimenting with the low or zero carbs sports drink powders that do not contain caffeine! I purchased 3 different ones to try out during my normal exercise workouts. Each powder packet empties into a bottle of water to create the "sports drink". The packets will be easy to carry when out and about -- on the trail, or in the parks. They are small and easy to pack.

sports3.jpg Here are what I tested:

Totally Light to Go - Cranberry, Pomegranate Antioxidant, sugar free, 0 carbs, 0 calories; sweetened with Splenda. For a 16.9 ounce bottle of water -- 20 mg Sodium and 30 mg Potassium. This product is sweetened with Sucralose (think Splenda).

Propel Vitamin Enhanced Water Powder Packets (I had used the pre-mixed bottles before).
Lemon flavored - For a 16ounce bottle of water: 20 calories, 6g carbs, 4g sugars, 60mg Sodium, Niacin, B6 and B12. First ingredient listed: Sucrose.

Crystal Light "On the go Hydration". Crystal Light has several different varieties of the powder packs, so be sure you use the right one for you. I got both the Lightly Lemon and Lightly Raspberry flavors. For a 16ounce bottle of water: 10 calories, 150mg Sodium and 70mg Potassium 0 cards, 0 sugars. It's sweetened with aspartame, which surprised me, as I usually don't like aspartame.

I tried each one a minimum of two times - once during a one hour energetic step class and once during a 50 minute treadmill walk. Granted, this is not very scientific but then, I'm a traveler, not a scientist. Just thought I'd share what I tried and perhaps it will assist you as well.


Deb's Taste Test Results.

My least favorite was the Totally Light 2 Go. If there were other flavors, it might be ok, but this flavor was WAY TOO sweet for me. It might make a nice sugar free mix with club soda and ice for a refreshing summer beverage. But it wasn't my idea of a sports drink. Besides, it had no post exercise effect for me.

My 2nd least favorite turned out to be the Propel, also made by Gatorade. After using the premix bottles for over a year I was quite surprised this one didn't win out. I didn't care for the taste and it didn't help much with my post exercise recovery. I was really disappointed in the Propel website. All glitz and not much information.

Mixing the Sports Drink Far and away the winner was Crystal Light on the Go Hydration - lemon flavored. I tried the raspberry, but that flavor was too sweet for me. Give me lemon flavoring any day. It not only tasted the best to me, but I felt it helped best with my after exercise recovery.

Each of these has different additives, dyes and what not, so be sure to read the labels carefully if you have allergies or other concerns.

Another thing with the powder packs is that the serving sizes can be screwy so brush up on your math! The serving size on the Totally Light 2 Go was half a packet for 8 ounces of water. Ok, so for 16 ounces of water I'd use a full pack. But wait, my bottle of water is One pint plus 7.7 fluid ounces - ummm. ok, so 16 + 8 = 24 ounces of water... ok 1.5 packs. Now what am I supposed to do with half a pack of powder in the Grand Canyon? (yes, I'll bring a small ziploc baggie).

My plan during the Southwest Adventure is to use the Crystal Light Hydration Lemon every other bottle of fluid, with water being the primary replenishment! If it works well, it will become a regular part of my luggage to Florida, especially during the hotter months.

As with everything, your mileage may vary. If you are under a doctor's care, be sure and check with them before trying any of these powder mixes. Please keep in mind, though, that this article is not meant to take the place of any advice from your doctor or other health care professional.


If you have a favorite NO/LOW SUGAR drink I didn't mention, let me know.

Read my Adventures by Disney Blog Entries.


July 31, 2007

2008 Dining Plan Changes

UPDATE INFO: 7/31/07
1) The Deluxe Dining plan still does NOT include gratuity. It DOES include the appetizer.
2) No word on DVC member pricing.

*************

There has been lots of internet chatter about changes coming to the 2008 Magic Your Way Dining plans. AllEars now hears the following is scheduled to be announced in August:

1) Automatic Gratuity will be removed from all 2008 packages that include dining. Tax will still be INCLUDED, but the gratuity will not.

2) The Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan as we know it today will change for 2008. Gone will be the appetizer from the Table Service meal. The full service option will consist of entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. The price goes down just $1 per person per day to $37.99 for those 10 and older. $9.99 for those 3-9.

3) 2008 will see the introduction of the Magic Your Way Plus DELUXE Dining Plan. This plan will include: 3 meals a day - your choice of table service or counter service; 2 snacks per day per person; a Resort Refillable Mug for each person on the reservation. Signature restaurants will still count as 2 Table Service meals, but now with the additional table service meals, dinner shows and signature restaurants may be more doable. Price will be $69.99 for those 10 and older and $19.99 for those 3-9.

4) The last major change will probably be the addition of a Magic Your Way Plus Wine package. For $39.99 per night you may order a bottle of wine at your Disney restaurant or from a location on property that sells wine (like resort stores). It can not be purchased separately and may only be an add-on to a Dining Package. There are still a lot of details to work out on this including if there will be a special wine list to order from or a dollar limit. Sounds like if you are at a Signature Restaurant that takes 2 Table Service credits, you will also be charged 2 Wine credits if on the add-on plan.

Again, this is UNofficial information. Look for Walt Disney World to officially announce the 2008 packages and dining options in August.

July 30, 2007

Small Ticket Change coming in 2008

All Ears hears that the advance ticket discount for all 4-day or more tickets will disappear in 2008.

No word on any other ticket changes at this time.

Upcoming 2007 Special Resort Discounts

As is usually the case come this time of year, Walt Disney World announces Annual Passholder and Florida Resident room discounts for the remainder of the calendar year. These should be announced in early to mid August.

What is different this year is that there will be a special 4 week period where the resorts really need to fill rooms. During this period, AllEars hears there will be a special dining gift card available. So, your 2 night minimum stay (with an AP or Florida Resident room discount) during this special 4 week period, will also get you a Dining Gift Card! For Values it is $20, for Moderates $50, Deluxe Resorts $75 and Disney Vacation Club (for cash, not points) resorts for $100! One card per room, again a 2 night minimum.

Again, this is UNofficial information. Look for Walt Disney World to officially announce the Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts in August.

July 3, 2007

Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas Construction Update

We have received lots of email the last 2 weeks about the ongoing construction at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Some readers reported they were contacted by Disney and moved to another resort (Saratoga Springs being the primary one). Others have written stating they have not been contacted and asking for advice.

All Ears Team Member Linda Mac is at the Lodge now, the first DVC guest to stay in the new Villas. She has been blogging daily.

I just received official word from Diane Hancock, at the Disney Vacation Club, who writes:

"Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas opened to Disney Vacation Club Members yesterday. We are pleased that our Members are happy with the new accommodations. There is construction occurring at the resort to complete the conversion of the fifth and sixth floors to Vacation Homes.

In an effort to accelerate the construction timeline and potentially complete this effort earlier than planned, portions of the resort will be temporarily closing. As a result of the accelerated timeline, we are working with Guests who have existing Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge reservations to assist them in selecting alternate accommodations for their upcoming visit. This does not affect all Guests staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The care and safety of the animals at the resort is at the forefront of planning the construction. No animals have been adversely affected by the construction and we are proactively managing their care."

June 28, 2007

Resort Reflections - Animal Kingdom Lodge Part 2

In Part 1 of Animal Kingdom Lodge I spoke of the pre-opening and the opening of the Lodge.

In this blog, I'll talk about the Savannahs.

The most unique aspect of Animal Kingdom Lodge are the animals and their savannahs. There are 3 savannahs encompassing a total of 11 acres, each with it's own look and feel. As you look out from the lodge they are from left to right: Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima! More than 200 birds and animals populate the savannahs -- a different group of birds and animals are on each of the savannahs. Only the reticulated giraffes can be found on all three.

There are several public viewing areas, both inside and outside where you can see the animals. If you have a savannah view room, you can watch the birds and animals from your balcony! The hallways inside the resort along the "trails" (aka wings) have areas of windows where you can view animals also! You will also find a few outside "balcony" viewing locations. Don't forget there are several exterior stairwells that also provide animal viewing opportunities. For the Arusha and Uzima Savannahs, there are ground level viewing spots too.

Thompson's Gazelle
Thompson's Gazelle - Larger Version Here.

Very important -- Keep in mind the savannahs are the home for these birds and animals. Disney can not guarantee any animal sightings. I suggest that you inquire at check-in to see what time morning feeding time is because the animals know what that jeep is doing out there and they gather! (If the front desk doesn't know, ask one of the animal guides in the outdoor viewing areas). In addition to morning feedings times, the animals tend to be out around dusk.

For folks who are up and out to the parks early and back late in the evening, you may not get to see many animals at all. While you may be in park commando mode, the animals have their own time schedule :)

Each day, each savannah closes for a couple hours. The animals are brought to the barns for training and health inspections. It also gives the keepers time for any special maintenance in the savannah itself. There is always at least one savannah open with animals.

blue line

The Sunset Savannah has an upper level viewing area that consists of a lounge and a balcony. From here you can see Ostrich, Red River Hogs, Waterbuck, Marabou Stork, Ruppell's Griffon Vulture and others. The Sunset Savannah Lounge is actually a very nice place to relax. Sometimes I'll bring morning coffee in there or perhaps a before dinner beverage. The theming in this room is amazing. If a tour is offered during your stay, be sure to take it to learn more about the artifacts in the lounge!

Sunset Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Larger Version Here.

Red River Hogs
Red River Hogs - Larger Version Here.


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The Arusha Savannah is probably the largest, or at least, appears that way and is the central area of the resort. There is a large rock formation that juts into the savannah, allowing for a variety of viewing spots. This Savannah becomes a huge horseshoe with the widest wings of the resort rooms bordering it. If you look at the resort map, you'll see what I mean.

Animals found here include Zebra, Eland, White-Bearded Wildebeest, Ankole-Watusi Cattle, Pink-Backed Pelican, and others. Night vision animal viewing is available on this savannah. A guide will be out after dark and can show you how to use the night vision goggles to spot animals (many of which are nocturnal). Again, be sure to check at the Front Desk for times.

Arusha Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Larger Version Here.

White-Bearded Wildebeest
White-Bearded Wildebeest - Larger Version Here.


Zebra
Zebra - Larger Version Here.


blue line


The Uzima Savannah is the furthest on the right if you look out from the Lodge. Its home to the Greater Kudu, Thompson's Gazelle, Blesbok, flamingos, Stanley Crane, and more. The Uzima Savannah is behind the Uzima Pool. You can always take a look at the animals while you enjoy the pool. There is a flamingo area directly behind the pool as well.

Uzima Savannah
Larger Version Here.

Greater Kudu
Greater Kudu - Larger Version Here.

Flamingos
Flamingos - Larger Version Here.

blue line


The first 2 animals on the Lodge savannahs just happened to be the first 2 animals brought to the Animal Kingdom theme park - 2 reticulated giraffes!

Giraffe on the Sunset Savannah Animal Kingdom Lodge
Larger Version Here.

Not all the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge were there for opening and some of the original Lodge animals have left. There were Gemsbok were on the Arusha Savannah in 2001, but they were found to be incompatible with the other animals and moved elsewhere. Also, in the last few years, the Red River Hogs were added to the Sunset Savannah.

As mentioned above, an important fact to remember when visiting or staying at the Lodge is that it is the home for these animals and birds -- their safety and well-being is the priority! You may not attempt to feed, throw things or get into the animal areas. If caught doing so, you may be expelled from the lodge. Security cameras view room balconies as well as the public viewing areas to keep an eye on guests and make sure the rules are adhered to!

Lastly, what are those fenced areas on the savannahs? Ever seen those wooden "pens" in the Savannahs that are very close to the resort? These are actually contingency locations for guests to use in case the lodge must be evacuated.

Pens
Larger Version Here.


More Photos can be found at:
Animal Kingdom Lodge Photo Gallery
Sunset Safari Excursion

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Animal Kingdom Lodge - Resort Reflections

June 21, 2007

Resort Reflections - Animal Kingdom Lodge Part 1

I'm often asked "What is your favorite resort?", which is actually a difficult question to answer -- much like "What is your favorite restaurant?" is a difficult to answer. My experience with just about anything Disney is that it's not just the resort or meal itself, but also the ambience, the cast members, the themeing, that intangible feeling.... With Disney, I've come to expect a complete package.

So I thought I'd begin a series on the Walt Disney World Resorts. These blogs will be a snapshot of my current personal thoughts and feelings. I can tell you my "favs" have changed over time, as I'm sure they will continue to...... Also, these come from an adult only perspective. I have no children and generally travel to WDW either alone or with another adult.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Preview Welcome


As I pondered where to start, my first thought went to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was able to visit the lodge before it opened. There was a preview where we got to tour certain portions of the resort and see a couple of the rooms. I am quite surprised now, reading my thoughts from 6 years ago. Here's a few excerpts from that report:

-- " I walked through DAKL four times, and each time the place grew on me a little more. I was expecting a jaw-dropping, "WOW" feeling, similar to when I saw Animal Kingdom for the first time, but I didn't get that."

-- "The Savannah areas look awesome and the viewing areas put you much closer to the animals than I expected. I discovered, though, that not all savannahs will have animals all the time -- at least one area at a time will be closed for cleaning, maintenance, etc."

-- "If I had to name one major disappointment I had with DAKL, it is with the rooms. While intricately appointed in dark carved woods, ethnic decor, and kente-inspired fabrics, the rooms are very small. I had the same feeling I did when first entering the Wilderness Lodge Villas bedroom: These are Queen Beds? There is little room to move around in and anyone in a wheelchair in a regular room is going to have a tough time."

-- "There also seems to be a lack of recreational activities at the lodge. Other than swimming and animal viewing there is not much to occupy one."

Here's my original report from the preview in 2001.


I guess when I said the resort "grew on me" each visit, I wasn't kidding. It's now one of my favorite resorts. In fact, I give it my award for "Best Resort to Get Away from it All".

Entrance to Animal Kingdom Lodge


Anyone remember the exact date Animal Kingdom Lodge officially opened?


April 16, 2001, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge did officially open and I planned to be there. Prior to the trip, I had done the typical planning, sketched out theme park days, made dinner reservations and so on.

The entire resort buzzed with excitement and opportunities for discoveries. I recall waking up the first night about 2am and looking out the window. Oh My Gosh! There's a ZEBRA out here! WAKE UP!

The opening crew was amazing. There were cultural representatives from Africa who were around the inside and outside of the resort, just aching to share stories of their homelands. In fact, I still keep in touch with Thabo, a gentleman who was the cultural representative on the opening team. By the way, you can find Thabo over at the Swan and Dolphin concierge desks.

My Opening Week Report.

Roy Disney and Deb Wills
Much to all our surprise, each day we spent at the Lodge we fell more and more in love with it and began to cancel plans we had made at other restaurants. Indeed, we ended up dining multiple times at Boma and Jiko and spending a great deal of time at the lodge.


One of my best memories from that week was meeting Roy Disney! He too, was at the Lodge and I saw him walking along one of the hallways. He was as nice as he could be, even suggested the best place for us to stand for a photo. It was a real thrill for me!

I was hooked..... and still am. In fact, since 2001 I have stayed at the lodge numerous times in most of the room categories from Parking Lot view to Concierge Savannah View -- each has it's own uniqueness.

The Lodge currently has 3 savannahs - Sunset, Uzima and Arusha!

Arusha Savannah

I say currently because there are big Disney Vacation Club plans for Animal Kingdom which will include a new savannah. Right now a new animal barn is being built to care for the additional animals. Once that is complete, work will begin on the new savannah and Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas building!

Remember when I said AKL is one of my favorite resorts? Well, as a Disney Vacation Club member, I was thrilled to learn of the new facilities planned for the Lodge and have already purchased DVC points! Yes, I think I'll be staying there for a long time to come.

More on Animal Kingdom Lodge to come....

April 25, 2007

4/25/2007 WDW Almost Live

Evening 4/21/2007

Tonight we dined at Jiko to celebrate our dear friends Tod and Sue's anniversary. Our dinner was simply amazing and highlighted by manager Jeremy who paired each of our courses with a special South African Wine. We actually never did have a "main course" per se... but did manage to have several courses of items from the Cooking Place and the appetizer list. Oh, and dessert.

In this photo, Jeremy is pouring the Chocolate Box red wine for Sue -- it was YUMMMY!!

jiko.jpg

Sunday, April 22, 2007
I hadn't spent much time in the World Showcase portion of Epcot so Linda and I headed there on Sunday. What a beautiful weather day... mostly blue skies, mild temps and a small breeze. We strolled from pavilion to pavilion enjoying all the beautiful flowers and topiaries.

canada.jpg

Along the way, we had lunch at the Yakatori House in Japan. It was ok, nothing special, but decent. By mid afternoon we strolled back to the front of Epcot to try and get better photos of the entrance topiaries.

Back to Wilderness Lodge where we spent some time talking with the concierge staff. Lisa, Gerrianne, Jack and everyone was just super!

Sunday evening we dined at Il Mulino in the Swan, the new Italian place. Being such a huge fan of Palio (the former Italian restaurant), I had such high hopes. Alas, I found the place disappointing and way overpriced. Our dining companions, Steve Barrett (Mr. Hidden Mickey) and his lovely wife Vickie, made the evening very special.

Monday morning we were off to the airport at 6:30am for a flight home. A great trip with great memories!

Deb --
Life IT too short!

April 24, 2007

4/24/07 - WDW Almost Live

Well, as you can see, I didn't quite finish the "live" updates from Walt Disney World. Things just got so hectic. Allow me now, to finish up the trip as best I can.....

4/20/07 Evening....
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Dinner at California Grill was wonderful, as it always is for me. We were seating in the wine room in the back and had a great view of Epcot's Spaceship Earth as well as the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. As I mentioned, I"ll be doing an article for the AllEars® newsletter on our California Grill experience.

4/21/07
Saturday morning we decided to have breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe. If you haven't been there yet, let's just say is a Wild and Crazy dining experience. Lots of whopping it up... so be ready for noise, even early in the am! The kids all got to ride around on their stick ponies (even some "older" kids) and it was fun to watch. Our server was very into his role and sometimes he couldn't stop himself from laughing. Food was very good but huge quantities and most of us couldn't finish our breakfast!!

The four of us went over to Epcot to see the Flower and Garden Festival. It certainly had more "color" than I remembered from last year.

The Pirate ship at the entrance is just magnificent with Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, the gator and Pirate "Mr. Smee" Stitch!

We rode the new Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico. Certainly more colorful and lively that the former El Rio de Tiempo which definitely needed updating. If I didn't know the story line in advance, I would have been wondering exactly what it was. It wasn't clear to me until near the end that the Caballeros were looking for Donald. Be that as it may, it was cute and a strong "C-ticket" attraction.

There were gorgeous orchids along the path outside of Mexico and we spent a great deal of time admiring and taking photos of them.

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At this point I left my friends and headed off to do some resort research at Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans French Quarter. My friends continued to enjoy the Festival.


Deb
Life -- IT too short!

April 21, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update Part 2

Friday really was an incredibly magical day. I already shared with you the baby Spoonbills I watched at Animal Kingdom....just amazing.

The day actually began earlier at the Wilderness Lodge, where we had the privilege of attending a flag ceremony on the roof of the Lodge. The cool breeze stood the flags out in a colorful array. I had not been on the roof in about 10 years and the views were as incredible as I remembered. Cast Member Jack was just wonderful and made it a very special experience!

wlflag.jpg


Ok, back to Animal Kingdom... The park was pretty crowded when I arrived 10:30ish. I was in the Dinosaur section. Do you ever feel like you must have a sign on your car that says "Put me in the farthest parking space possible.. oh and please give the folks in front of me close parking spaces" LOL So I was wayyyyyy down the end of Dinosaur. I realized just how crowded it was when there was a back up to get on the tram. As one filled, there were just as many folks waiting in the lot for the next one.

The baby Spoonbill I showed you yesterday....well, they are in the very front viewing area as you enter Animal Kingdom. There were actually 2 Spoonbills nesting with babies. The mom on the left had 2 little ones; you saw a photo of one. The spoonbill on the right had 1 baby that had been born in within the last 12 hours and also had another one coming out of the egg.

Animal Kingdom was celebrating Earth Day and had exhibits set up in each land, geared towards teaching kids more about the environment.

As I headed to Pizzafari for some lunch, I saw dear friends of mine, MJ, Bonny and Andrew! A great surprise. While at lunch I met a woman who thanked me for co-writing Passporter's WDW for Your Special Needs. She said she never imagined they'd be able to do a trip to Walt Disney World and the book gave her the courage to do so! They were having a really good time!!!"

Off to the Kilimajaro Safari... MJ stays in her wheelchair and so we went to that part of the queue line. There was a very long wait, but that was ok, it gave us a more opportunity to talk!

On the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, we saw real eggs belonging to the Flamingos. The 6 month old giraffe is now gliding more confidently along the savannah and everywhere I looked, it seemed as though there were young ones... very exciting!!!

I headed off to do some resort research and then returned to the room to get ready for dinner. Another wonderful meal at California Grill. I'll be writing more about that for a feature article in AllEars.

Deb

Life, IT too short!

April 20, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update

Today, Friday, is our first full day at Walt Disney World. It's been an amazing day that I can't wait to share with you as soon as I have time to write.

But I do want to share this precious photo... It is a 1-2 day old baby African Spoonbill who lives in the Oasis at Animal Kingdom.

babyspon.jpg


April 19, 2007

Wilderness Lodge

DebWL.jpg

We've arrived! I got goosebumps checking in when Al, the security guard, welcomed the Princeses Home!!! I just love the Wilderness Lodge. It was actually the first deluxe resort I ever stayed at in the 90s and still remember Ranger Stan taking care of our bags. We got a super MouseFanTravel.com group rate and are splurging with a stay in concierge!

When Al checked our name at the gate, there was a note on our parking pass to let the valet stand know we were staying at the Old Faithful Club. When we arrived at the Valet Stand they called upstairs and Cast Member Rob came down to greet us. He got a bellman for us and wouldn't you know, it was Arnie, the same gentleman that helped me on my last stay. He is just wonderfully magical and it started the stay out on a very high note. The Lodge appears to be pretty full to capacity..there are folks everywhere!

It was 6:30 when we arrived. We were famished, so went into the Lounge and got some dinner. Really awesome vegetable soup (and I"m not a big soup person) was the hit. We also munched on some celery and cheese....and of course a glass of wine for me, and Linda had a bottle of Bass Ale.

We've unpacked and are now trying to decide what to do. MK is open very late so I'm thinking of taking the boat over since it's such a beautiful evening. Not even sure I'll go in the park.

On the other hand, the weather here is awesome (compared to home) and the balcony door is open...there's a gentle breeze.

Tommorrow morning I'll take off running with several pages of Book Questions to research.
Linda will be playing golf at Eagle Pines.

Til tomorrow....

Deb
Life IT too short!!!

Headed to Walt Disney World

I'll be leaving later today for a long weekend at Walt Disney World. My days will be spent doing research for the 2nd edition of Passporter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs (actually our new title is Passporter's Open Mouse). It triple check the research fact time!!

My evenings will be spent relaxing and catching up with friends. We've got three nice dinners planned. My task will be to maintain my healthy eating while dining at California Grill (Contemporary), Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and Il Mulino (Swan).

The weather sounds nice, especially given the crazy non-spring weather we've been having in Washington, DC. Temps should be high 70s low 80s and sunny to partly cloudy skies.

I'll be sending daily updates - letting you know crowd conditions and reporting back on anything of note. Stay tuned for more, possibly later tonight.

Deb
Life IT too short!

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About WALT DISNEY WORLD

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Deb's Digest in the WALT DISNEY WORLD category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is the previous category.

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