Theme Parks Archives

February 19, 2018

Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience - Animal Kingdom REVIEW

Deb's Digest Blog

Have you ever ridden the Kilimanjaro Safaris and wished that you weren't on such a huge truck and that you had an animal guide with you to answer all your questions and share interesting, sometimes amusing facts?

And have you thought about how nice it would be to just sit and watch the savanna "breathe?" And wouldn't it be nice to do just that while enjoying some African-inspired tapas and beverages?

Well, if you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you should seriously consider signing up for Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience. It has been on my radar for a while now and when Disney Vacation Club announced a special 30 percent discount for the months of February and March, we said, "Let's book it!" The regular price without a discount is $169; AP and Disney Visa® card holders receive a 15 percent discount on most tours. (The usual discount for DVC members is also 15 percent.)

Our savanna time was 4 p.m. and we were requested to check in 15 minutes early. We went to where we thought the check-in was, at the Curiosity Animal Tours Kiosk in Disney's Animal Kingdom, just before you reach the Kilimanjaro Safari entrance. The folks there directed us just to the right of the standby entrance for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. The cast members were strict about not letting anyone in until exactly 4 p.m.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

At our designated time, we walked past the cast member with the sign to the check-in area. First up, sign the waiver. There was ice cold water and a special juice (orange, pineapple and mango) available while we waited for everyone to arrive.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Soon, all 10 of us (there is a limit of 12 per tour) followed our guide back into Animal Kingdom and around Rafiki's Planet Watch. At this point, we found our truck waiting for us.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

It is important to note that the ride on this vehicle is very rough! Rougher even than a regular Kilimanjaro Safaris vehicle. You are seated along the sides of the vehicle, so people who get motion or car sick may not do well. VERY IMPORTANT: You must stay seated until the guide tells you it is OK to stand. I have photos of the truck seating at the end of this blog.

For a while, we followed the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris route. Our guide pointed out animals and shared lots of stories and interesting facts.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

When we spotted animals, we gave a shout and if possible the truck stopped to allow photos.

We started out in the forest. When most people think of Africa they do not think of forests, they think of wide open plains. But Africa has several distinct types of habitat. The forest contains animals such as the Bongo.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

I sometimes wonder if the hippo pictured above ever moves... everyone seems to have the exact same photo of it!

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

One interesting tidbit is that there are special "water holes" for the animals to drink from.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Once in the biggest (east) savanna we pulled over and the cast member who works there came to talk to us. She had lots of details about the savanna itself and the animals. I just wish I could remember it all.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Just as we started to leave a giraffe came by to say hello.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

We continued along our way and soon saw the "Boma" (in the west savanna), the next stop in our journey.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

The "Boma" is a viewing platform. It is used for various tours including the Wild Africa Trek. It is spacious, covered and has two restrooms available.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Our time here was relaxing, informative and downright enjoyable.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

You know you are someplace special when no one rushes to line up for beverages or food. We were all looking out over the savanna. I had flashbacks to the Lion King when Mufasa told Simba, "Look, Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom."

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

This was the "savor" part of the experience -- lots of yummy snacks, shrimp, grapes, cheeses, nuts, prosciutto, edamame and desserts. There were choices of African beers and wines, as well as water and juice available.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

We could see wildebeest (AKA gnu) in the distance. Nearby the giraffes were putting on a show. One of the younger giraffes was making a game of chasing the ducks that landed in the small pond. We watched the Kilimanjaro Safari trucks pass and the greater flamingos at the big Hidden Mickey watering hole. Looking out we could see the elephants.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

The guides were on hand to answer any questions we had and to share more information about the savanna and conservation. They explained the photos on the tables of the villagers in Africa building a "living fence" to keep the predators away from their livestock. This effort is aided by donations from Disney.

There is also another walkway and overlook. This one features a view of the majestic lions. We were fortunate to see Frankie (so called because of his Sinatra-like blue eyes) the rhino walk by.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

We spent at least a solid hour at the Boma. Once reloaded in the truck, we returned to the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris path and had one last awesome animal sighting.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Drop-off was at one of the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris stops. When the tour was over we were all given a rock. Disney donates a portion of the tour price (as they do with all Animal Kingdom tours) to conservation efforts for various animals/programs. Each tour participant places a rock in the marked area they want to support.

Kudos to the team of cast members: Morgan, Megan, Claire, Sarah, and everyone else (sorry, I can't recall all your names).

It was a wonderful experience and the four of us in my party highly recommend it, especially now with the Disney Vacation Club discount. We all agreed we would take the tour again.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom


When I called to make reservations I was asked about food allergies. Once we arrived at the Boma one of the cast members asked those with allergies to identify themselves. She had responses for each person/allergy. It was nice to see things work as they should.

The particulars from Disney (the entire list is HERE):

For your safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure; heart, back or neck problems; motion sickness or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure.

Expectant mothers should not participate.

Guests must be at least 8 years of age to participate in this experience.

Guests under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a participating adult (18 years of age or older).

This experience requires guests in ECVs to transfer into an available wheelchair to participate in the tour.

This excursion occurs rain or shine, with the exception of severe weather or lightning.

Valid theme park admission to Disney's Animal Kingdom park is also required and is not included in the price of this tour.

If you have taken any of Walt Disney World's special tours, please leave your comments to help other guests plan their vacations.

Guests must be at least 21 years of age or older to consume alcoholic beverages. Please keep a valid form of identification on hand at all times to verify your age.




November 27, 2017

Backstage Magic Tour

Deb's Digest Blog

Years, and I do mean years ago, I took the Backstage Magic Tour of Walt Disney World. We got to do some really cool things and I always remembered how much fun it was. The tour took us to Epcot, Magic Kingdom (no Animal Kingdom then), the Disney MGM Studios and behind the scenes at several Cast Member locations.

Much has changed in all those years, and recently I have been wanting to take it again, especially with the American Adventure component. I kept promising myself once the temperatures in Central Florida cooled down, I'd sign up. It is easily seven hours and by the time you are done, you are ready to rest and put your feet up for a while.

Here's how it is currently described:

"Enjoy a one-of-a-kind VIP look at the inner workings of Walt Disney World Resort on an amazing 7-hour journey through the Magic Kingdom Utilidors, Creative Costuming, Walt Disney World Central Shops and more. Tour participants are among the select few who receive an exclusive look into the artistry, technology, mechanical marvels and backstage stories that go into producing world-class Disney experiences."

The timing could not have been more perfect when a couple weeks ago in my inbox the following appeared: INVITATION: Join us for Backstage Magic! Yes, I had been selected to experience the Backstage Magic Tour by Walt Disney World. I should note that Adventures by Disney (AbD) actually runs the tour.

Recently, I took the tour and I can tell you it is a whirlwind of a day and worth every moment.

Our guides, Amber and Pieter, were awesome, full of facts and tidbits, and they made sure we stayed on time. There were only a couple rules, "Don't ask how many or how much." And absolutely no cell phones out while backstage. In fact, we were given small notebooks to jot down things to remember because we couldn't take photos of everything.

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

Meandering backstage, we learned tidbits about Future World including everything from a brief history of Epcot to the many Disney color paint palettes.

Soon we were at the American Adventure! Learning and seeing the magic work behind the scenes was fascinating, and we were very lucky and got an up-close and personal look at Ben Franklin. (Please note the up-close look is not available on all tours). Did you know that in the Declaration of Independence scene with Franklin and Thomas Jefferson the words Declaration of Independence are written on each of the "earlier versions" that are crumpled up on the floor? That's just in case someone with a telephoto lens takes a picture!

Next, we spent about 40 minutes in Creative Costuming. The outside door has a small awning that says: "The Hanger." Clever, don't you think?

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

We learned all kinds of things about Cast Costumes, like there are four categories - Operational Cast Members, Entertainment, Equity Performers and the Audio Anamatronics. There is even a reference library wall that has swatches of cloth for each costume. When I took this tour years ago, cast members were not allowed to bring their costumes home; they were stored and cleaned at Walt Disney World. That has changed quite a bit, as Operational Cast Members are allowed to take them home now.

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

Next stop was Textile Services. I could write about all the cool things we learned, but then you may not need to take the tour. (Or maybe at this point my handwriting became illegible!) On to Laundry, which you probably wouldn't think of as fascinating, but it truly was. Those laundry carts you see at all the Disney Resorts? They get transported to one of the laundry facilities where the contents are emptied, cleaned, sanitized, wrapped in plastic and returned back into service. Guess what the No. 1 item is that's found mixed in with the laundry? I'll tell you at the end.

We had a very fun photo op here. In fact, there are three or four photo ops along the way that you won't find anywhere else. (Hint: maelstrommalestrommaelstrom)

By this point in the tour, I know my stomach was growling, and I think several others were too!

The folks at Whispering Canyon at Wilderness Lodge took great care of us. Lunch began with the yummy corn bread, followed by the All You Can Eat Skillet and ended with a specially made cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Of course, a visit to Whispering Canyon is not complete without some shenanigans.

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

Two stops left, and they were both huge -- Central Shops and Utilidors. The Central Shops are in this ginormous warehouse with lots of separate areas such as Welding, Metal, Assembly, Scenic, Inspection and everything else in between. This is like candy for the eyes for Disney geeks as you get to see whatever is being worked on like a hippo from the Jungle Cruise and a chassis from Expedition Everest. Also, during this part of the tour we learned a great deal about the Audio-Animatroncs.

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

Last but certainly not least was our tour of the Utilidors at the Magic Kingdom. Underneath the Magic Kingdom is a 1.3-mile utility corridor with 29 stairwells leading up to the Magic. Also located here is the AVAC (automated vacuum collection) system where all the trash goes. It was revolutionary in its time, but later proved to not be cost effective.

And then all of a sudden our tour was done. Wow! I can't even begin to tell you all the tidbits and facts we all learned, and my note-taking could barely keep up to the narrative. There is much more I could share, but I don't want to spoil some of the magic you will want experience.

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

We had a bus that took us from place to place. As we couldn't take photos our guides made sure to take lots of photos of us in various locations. Our belongings could stay safely on the bus. There was also plenty of cold and room temperature water as well as snacks. The guides, like all AbD guides, took great care of us.

At the conclusion, we each received an Adventures by Disney pin for the Back Stage Magic Tour.

WDW Backstage Magic Tour

Oh, and that No. 1 item found in the laundry? The remote control from the TV.

Ok, so the big question, would I spend $275 for a seven-hour behind-the-scenes tour of Walt Disney World? My answer is yes. As I wrote in the very beginning, I was considering signing up. As a Disney fan, I loved all the details and tidbits that were shared. I love seeing what goes on behind the scenes of all the various areas of the park. There are numerous unique experiences you won't get on any other tour. My one suggestion for the tour designers would be to add a behind-the-scenes tour of Tower of Terror or Haunted Mansion!

If you do this tour, make the most of it by asking all the questions you can think of. After all, you are dedicating a full day to the experience!

To book the Backstage Magic Tour call 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687). Guests must be at least 12 years of age to participate in this tour. Read the Know Before You Go section on! Lastly, there is a lot of standing and walking.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Walt Disney World. However, my opinions are my own.

October 13, 2017

Animal Kingdom Wandering

Deb's Digest Blog

I typically don't go to the parks much in the midst of the summer heat and humidity and so planned to visit Animal Kingdom yesterday, mostly to update menus. I had no idea I hadn't been there since right after Pandora opened! I checked for last-minute FastPasses before leaving home, but nothing was available. I wasn't surprised.

So here are some observations from my walk around the park yesterday, noting things I had not seen before. Perhaps you have... but these things are new to me.

After I parked and walked down to the tram area, I noticed that the name of each row has been repainted in much larger letters, much clearer than before. Yea! You will also notice better signage in the parking area as well.


I then noticed he new tram front vehicles. As you can see in the photo, they are now sporting bright new red and green driver and engine sections.


I went into the Rainforest Cafe to update our menus and as I exited out the side, I noticed this elephant fountain. It looked so inviting on the already hot and humid morning but alas, "Please do not climb on rocks".


Next stop, Pandora. As I mentioned, the last time I was in Animal Kingdom was for a media preview of Pandora. My how different it looks full of people.

Crossing the bridge (shortly after 9 a.m.) the first thing I saw was the "End of the Line" for the Na'vi River Journey. The Cast Member told me that neither ride had "opened yet", and the estimated wait time was currently 45 minutes.


I read after I returned home that either both rides open or neither does. Can someone clarify that for me please?

As I walked deeper into Pandora, the whole area was packed. Cast members had created lines and pathways with rope and it was kind of hard to get from here to there. I looked for a Wait Time for Flight of Passage but couldn't get anywhere near the entry point, for either ride, actually.

I wanted to wander around the area, but as I said, it was very crowded and hard to maneuver so I decided to head out. Here's a screen shot of Animal Kingdom wait times at 9:14 a.m.


I did manage to find one of the PhotoPass photographers and had this photo taken. It was in My Disney Experience a few hours later.


Next thing I know I am being told to head back out of the area and over to Harambe to get in line for Flight of Passage (not that I was going to get in line, but curious where I would end up). A very, very long line. Talking to the Cast Member at the end of the line, I was told the wait time was now three hours! Normally the Harambe area is for exiting Pandora, not entering, but the long lines and lack of space inside Pandora changes that during busy times.



Alrighty then, back to getting menu photos! By the time I reached Asia, I was feeling hungry. I was very happy to see that the Yak and Yeti Local Cafes serve breakfast.


I chose the Canadian Bacon English Muffin. A take on Egg McMuffin with an extra piece of Canadian Bacon, plus tater tots for $9.99. Ouch, but not surprised.


Checking My Disney Experience again for wait times now at 10:07 a.m.:


Ah... behold the infamous Coca Cola Rhino:


For those of you who do Mobile Ordering, the area to pick up your food is clearly marked. And if you can't find it, ask a Cast Member.


I made my way back to the front of the park and decided to forego a second loop around. It was getting quite crowded. But I did wander the Oasis and entrance area.


Ok, I have a question. I have been to Animal Kingdom countless times since it opened in 1998. Unless I have to be someplace, I always walk around the Oasis and Discovery Island areas. The Reeve's Muntjac has become almost as elusive to me as the Anteater. I think in all this time, I have only seen it once and it was under all the brush. Has anyone ever seen it out and about? And I think there are two, yes?


Ah ha! The Black Swan! Not always out and about, but on this day the pair were swimming and sunning.


Lastly, as I noted much better signage in the parking lot, there is also a great directional sign as you exit the park.


'Til next time, folks...

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.


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.


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).


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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 :)


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


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!


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


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.


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


Even a cute Stitch shirt:


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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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.

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.





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:


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).



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.


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


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".


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.




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!


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!


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


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 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!


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



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.





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.






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


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



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.




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.


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.





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.




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


Beautiful view of Big Thunder Mountain


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.


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


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


More photos of the Jingle Jungle Cruise HERE

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


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


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


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".



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



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:

September 4, 2013

Magic Kingdom Walk Around

Deb's Digest Blog

Headed out to the Magic Kingdom bright and early September 3rd. This is a low crowd week at Walt Disney World. In fact, the 10-14 days following Labor Day monday are generally one of the slowest times of the year. Kids are back in school and most family vacations are over. You won't see lots of teens in the parks right now but there are lots of pre-schoolers.

I saw this car in the Magic Kingdom parking lot - they reached their destination!

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Lately I've been taking the Ferry Boat over to the MK. Kind of the quiet before the craziness. Plus, there are great views of the Polynesian, the Villas at the Grand Floridian construction and of course, the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Magic Kingdom Walk About

The construction is still underway for the new Magic Kingdom bus depot. It sure looks huge!

Magic Kingdom Walk About

I arrived shortly after 9am and only one side of the security bag check was open. That reminded me there would be low crowds during my walk.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Main Street U.S.A. is all decked out in fall colors and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party starts on September 10th!

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Magic Kingdom Walk About

The scarecrow pumpkins are all out again. While I think they are great, it'd be nice to see something else next year.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Pumpkins are arranged for a great photo op right at the start of Main Street.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Here's a video tour of Main Street U.S.A. and the decorations!

The Main Street Trolley Show has changed to fall songs and costumes. Thing is, I haven't seen them in the trolley on my last few visits.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Here's a video of the Summer Show:

My main purpose in visiting was to obtain fresh menus for As I finished up in Starlight Ray's, I just had to stop and catch a bit of Sonny Eclipse's show. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I posted a short video yesterday.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

This photo of Fantasyland was taken about 10:15am in the morning and I posted it to my Twitter account. You can see that it is NOT crowded at all. Most of the Fantasyland rides had less than 15 minute waits, many were walk ons.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

For those who haven't visited the Be Our Guest restaurant yet, you can stop by for a look early in the day. You can't explore very much, but you'll get a great view of the main dining room.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Off to Gaston's pub and I noticed they have Chocolate Croissants. I was tempted, yes very tempted, but I resisted.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Have you ever noticed the kegs behind the ordering counter? You will see Icerbock, Staggs Ale and of course Lefou's Brew.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

I continued with a walk around the Seven Drawfs Mine Train to check out the construction progress.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Crew were all over the new "mountain" working on the exterior. Here's a video of what I saw yesterday:

Since it's a small world was a walk on, i decided to enjoy a few minutes of air conditioning and one of my favorite attractions.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

I've noticed more and more counter or quick service eateries are changing over to digital menus. Here is one from Columbia Harbor House. Oh, and speaking of .... you used to get a bag of chips with your sandwich. Last week, not only had the prices gone up slightly, but I got a handful of loose chips, not the normal bag.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

As I approached Frontierland I could hear the the Hoe-Down was a happening. This is a fun interactive show with lots of characters and lots of dancing!

Magic Kingdom Walk About

I bypassed Adventureland and returned to Main Street for some pumpkin photos.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Another favorite of mine, the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! street party was passing by.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Magic Kingdom Walk About

As I exited, I saw this pumpkin farewell. It spells out See Ya Real Soon.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

Since we are talking Halloween, check out this cool video of Jack Skellington and Sally doing a Meet and Greet last week in Epcot.

Time to get on the General Joe Potter and head back to the car.

Magic Kingdom Walk About

One last thing, we have a whole playlist of Halloween Party Videos for your enjoyment. Head over to our YouTube channel and check them out!

That's it for this walk around. See you real soon!

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.






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




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










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.


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.


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

May 19, 2013

White Cheek Gibbon Baby at Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

This is the second half of my Walk Around Animal Kingdom Blog and features the 2 month old White-cheeked gibbon!

If you missed part 1 CLICK HERE

White-cheeked gibbons typically produce a single offspring every two to three years after seven to eight months gestation. Following birth, infants are able to cling to their mothers, allowing the females complete range of motion as they move about the forest with their offspring.

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

The species is also distinguished by the changing characteristics of their fur which differs by gender and age. While nursing, babies typically maintain a light-brown or golden-colored fur that easily blends with their mother's coat. Once weaned around the age of one, babies' fur transitions to black. While the males maintain black fur for their entire lives, female gibbons will change back to golden fur between the ages of six and eight.

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons


White Cheek Gibbon Baby Born 2010

Animal Kingdom Youngsters

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

Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


Merida's Royal Celebration


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 8, 2013

Animal Kingdom Walk Around


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.


Animal Kingdom Ringed-Tailed Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Ringed-Tailed 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!

October 8, 2012

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

Deb Wills


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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 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!


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

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


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?


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.


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



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.


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!


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.



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.



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!


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!!!!!



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


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!


"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:

Tony Escapa is the band's keyboardist.

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:

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 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® !

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.

"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."

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.


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%.

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®.







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®.

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 and the VISION® House website:

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

March 8, 2012

Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival Opens


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!


There is also a mobile website called Epcot in Bloom: 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


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.


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


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.

December 29, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites


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.


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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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
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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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!

November 23, 2011

First Inhabitants of Animal Kingdom


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.


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.


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.


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.


September 23, 2011

Big Thunder Mountain Celebrates 31 Years


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad became the second mountain and the 46th attraction of the Magic Kingdom, September 1980! It opened on September 23, 1980 and celebrated its Grand Opening on November 15, 1980.

It took 10 years to plan, tons of steel and concrete to build the attraction:

1,300,000 pounds of steel beams, rods and mesh
9,350,000 pounds of cement and sand
560,000 pints of water
64,000 cups of dessert paint in assorted colors
2,780 feet of railroad tracks
6 gold rush trains
2 acres of land!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in Disneyland in September 1979.

It can also be found at Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

For more information on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad visit:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Blog

July 28, 2011

Epcot World Showcase Postcards


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.


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!


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.

August 19, 2010

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


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.


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

June 17, 2009

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps - Epcot

Each country in World Showcase has its own themed entertainment and the American Adventure is one of my favorites.

The Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps usually plays outside the American Adventure pavillion Tuesdays - Saturdays. Be sure to check the Epcot times guide for exact days and times.

The show is about 15 minutes and features the colonial sounds of flutes and drums. Two of the songs you may hear them play are "God Bless America" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy".

The Fife and Drum Corps marches in from the left of the American Adventure pavilion (Liberty Inn side).

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

They position themselves between the American Gardens Theatre and the American Pavillion for the show.

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

There are 2 drummers, 2 flutists and the 5th member of the unit is the flag bearer.

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps Epcot

Based on the information I found, the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corp opened with Epcot Center and the American Adventure.

Video is taken with Flip Mino HD Camcorder! It is small, lightweight and easy to use.

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:


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 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

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


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 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 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. 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.


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.


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.

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.

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!!


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.


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....
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.

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.


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.

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!


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.


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.


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About Theme Parks

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Deb's Digest in the Theme Parks category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Step Back in Time is the previous category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.