December 20, 2014

Disney Princess makeovers added to 3 Walt Disney World hotel salons

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Hear yea, hear yea. The royal little princesses have another opportunity to look their best before parading around at Walt Disney World.

We reported last month that the dining room in Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom is undergoing renovations after the holidays and the Cinderella’s Royal Table dining experience is moving temporarily to Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort. And that got us to thinking: What what would royal dining be without the opportunity for young princesses to be transformed at the nearby salon?

Of course, Walt Disney World planners have thought of this, and the Ivy Trellis Salon will begin offering the new Perfectly Prepared Princess Package on Jan. 8. (Reservations will open on December 22; call 407-WDW-SPAS.)

Much like the makeovers offered at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a popular salon run by the fairy godmothers-in-training with two locations at Walt Disney World, the new services designed for kids ages 4 to 12 focus on hair, makeup and nails.

However, what you get for your money is not quite the same. As the mother of a 10-year-old daughter who LOVES the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and has been fortunate to have visited it multiple times since she was a toddler, I have a keen interest in these types of experiences. Yet my first impression of the news of the makeovers offered as the Perfectly Prepared Princess Package is that they are significantly more expensive.

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The new Perfectly Prepared Princess Package has three options:

** Princess hairdo with a souvenir tiara -- $50.
** Hair-styling plus glow make-up -- $75.
** Hair, makeup and a fancy manicure -- $90.

By comparison, the entry-level Crown Package at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique includes hair, makeup and nail polish PLUS a face gem, princess sash and tote for about $60. Even considering that the new package offers a manicure and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique only paints a child’s nails, that’s still a $30 difference. And, sure, that could be explained as the cost of a spa service. But does a young girl really need a full manicure when painting her nails usually is just as exciting?

Certainly, parents can pick the option of the Perfectly Prepared Princess Package that best fits their budget, but I speak from experience when I say that many girls will feel cheated if they don’t get all the treatments when the other young princesses are being indulged. In addition, visitors to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique take their makeup palettes, hair accessories and nail polish home with them. I would imagine this will be the same at the salon makeovers because each princess is given a new kit for sanitary reasons. One of my fondest memories is seeing my daughter at age 4 clutching that pink Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique bag for the rest of her day at the Magic Kingdom. She was so thrilled with her goodies that she would not let them out of her sight, and she even slept with them next to her pillow that night!

Still, I have to applaud the decision to add princess makeovers to more locations at Walt Disney World. (The Perfectly Prepared Princess Package also will be available at the Coronado Springs Casa de Belleza Beauty Salon and at the Yacht and Beach Club Resort Ship Shape Salon.) That’s because the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique sites are so popular that you really have to make reservations far in advance, and even then, it can be difficult to book during busy periods. So, even with the higher cost considerations, the Perfectly Prepared Princess Package gives more families the opportunity to be immersed in the experiences that their children love. And after all, that’s likely a large part of the reason they chose to vacation at Walt Disney World. And if you have any doubt about how important those experiences are to youngsters, just ask the countless number of little girls in princess dresses throughout the parks on any given day.



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December 18, 2014

Last-minute gift ideas for Disney fans

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Are you a last-minute shopper when it comes to Christmas — whether by choice or necessity?

If so, don’t panic! We’ve got you covered. Besides carrying a wide range of products, Amazon.com is known for its quick shipping. I recently browsed the site for Disney-themed items that the whole family can enjoy, and I was pleased to see some of my family’s favorites are still in stock. Perhaps, they will be hits at your house as well.

Disney Classic Mickey Waffle Maker

If you’re like me — or the thousands of Walt Disney World visitors who adore eating Mickey waffles on vacation — this is a fun way to keep the magic alive once you return home. My husband and children gave me this waffle maker for a gift one year (after my not-so-subtle hints), and it gets plenty of use! The list price is $59.99.


Disney Infinity 2.0 Starter Pack

This is the second edition of the popular gaming system that was introduced last Christmas. The starter pack contains Merida from Disney-Pixar’s “Brave” and Stitch figures; the video game disc; a Disney Infinity base; Disney Originals “Toy Box Game Discs” – Stitch’s Tropical Rescue and Brave Forest Siege; one Web code card; and a poster. This starter pack sells for $59.99 plus tax.

A second 2.0 starter pack is the Marvel Super Heroes Starter Pack. It includes the video game; three collectible characters, Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow; a Disney Infinity 2.0 base; two Toy Box game discs; a Marvel’s The Avengers play set piece; and a Web code card. The list price for the Marvel starter pack is $74.99.

Both starter packs are made for Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One, iOS tablets and smartphones, and PCs.




Disney’s “Frozen” DVD (and merchandise)

How can you not own the animated hit movie “Frozen” if you call yourself a Disney fan? Let’s just say that your first copy is worn out from overuse or the kids’ sticky fingers, then maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase the movie for a second time. You can get a new copy of the DVD or Blu-Ray version on Amazon.com for about $20 and $25, respectively. “Frozen” mania does not appear to be waning any time soon, and there is quite a selection of merchandise with the characters’ images, too. Even the Elsa and Anna costumes that were so difficult to find last Christmas are in plentiful supply in many variations. So expect to be playing the disc in the car player for some time to come.

Frozen Merchandise

Disney Hedbanz Board Game

Hedbanz is an easy board game that can be a lot of fun when the family is together for the holidays. How can you not laugh at the players wearing their mouse-ear hats and studiously trying to guess what is pictured on the cards they cannot see? Hedbanz is designed for ages 7 and older, and six people can play at once. The retail price is about $25.

Birnbaum's 2015 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide

While everyone is together, how about taking time to dream and plan your next vacation to Walt Disney World? You can get started with Walt Disney World’s official guidebook, “Birnbaum's 2015 Walt Disney World.” One of the things my family and I like best about this guidebook is that it includes self-guided tours designed by author Ridley Pearson for fans of his “Kingdom Keeper” series. Pearson helped create the immersive experiences for the series' fans at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. The paperback version of "Birnbaum's 2015 Walt Disney World" sells for about $13.

DISCLAIMER: If you purchase any of these items through the links to Amazon.com in this blog post, AllEars.Net receives a small payment. This, in turn, helps us bring you all the Walt Disney World news you look forward to. Happy holidays!



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December 17, 2014

What's new at Disney World's Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in 2014?

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Who doesn’t like to admire holiday light displays? It’s fun to see how the neighbors decorate, especially if that Orlando neighbor is Walt Disney World.

My family and I joined AllEars editor Deb Koma and contributing photographer Jason Dz of DisneyGeek.com for a stroll through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios this past weekend. No matter how many times we see this display, which Walt Disney World acquired in 1995, it’s never boring. Still, the folks at Disney try to offer a little something new each year for the many returning visitors.

** This year, the song “What’s This?” from “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” has been added to the playlist. Jack Skellington’s image also can be seen on the canopy of lights over Brownstone Street as the song comes to a close. Like a challenge? See if you can spot Jack in another location on the street, as well. (Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws meets guests during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for this first time this year. See the AllEars.Net video here.)

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** If you are an avid hidden Mickey hunter, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is the place for you! Not only are there almost 80 hidden Mickey symbols, but cast members are adding more through the last day of the show, which is Jan. 4. That means that each visit has the potential to be a different experience.

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** When the lights arrived in Orlando from Jennings Osborne’s home in Arkansas, a lighted purple cat from the family’s Halloween display was mistakenly included. Each year, cast members hide the cat in the Christmas display. This year, however, they are moving it within the display each day. Happy hunting!

** New Made With Magic light-up items, such as a wand, a Mickey glove and a Minnie ear headband – as well as the original Glow With The Show ear hats – are synched with the dancing lights. The accessories are sold at carts on the Streets of America for $25 each, but if you purchase them in one of the merchandise stores ahead of time, you can apply any discounts you might have, such as one for having a Walt Disney World annual pass or a Disney Vacation Club membership.

Here’s a recap of some of my best tips from previous years, which still apply to this year’s show. I hope they will help you make the most of your experience.

** Cast members direct the flow of guests onto the Streets of America, and you'll be asked multiple times to walk with the crowds. This really is in your best interest, both for safety reasons and to lessen your frustration at trying to see the lights along with so many other people. You will be asked to walk past Star Tours, Pizza Planet, Muppet Vision 3D and the Phineas and Ferb meet-and-greet, before finally rounding the corner of the attraction. From there, you're on your own to explore the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at your own pace, exiting on the opposite end of the Streets of America and walking past the ABC Commissary.

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** Guests also can enter the lights display by walking down Mickey Avenue, past Studio Catering Co. This may be the best bet for your family if you would like to meet Santa Goofy first in Tri-City Square. Goofy's Winter Wonderland debuted in 2012, and it's back again as a fun photo op. I recommend getting in line a little before 6 p.m., when he appears, because the line can grow quickly.

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** Speaking of photo opportunities, there is so much to capture here on your camera or videocamera so you can enjoy it again at home. Don't panic, though, if you forget your equipment or find your view blocked by others. Disney's PhotoPass photographers are set up in multiple locations on the Streets of America, in addition to the Santa Goofy meet-and-greet. One of the most popular spots year after year is in front of the 70-foot Christmas tree in the center of the display. We've also seen photographers roving by apartment steps, the lighted bicycle and other fun backgrounds.

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** Stay on The Streets of America long enough to see the lights dance and the snowflakes fall. After each choreographed song, there is an intermission of about seven minutes when the lights don't dance while other holiday music plays or characters talk.

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** The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights begins each night at 6 p.m. with a small opening ceremony when a lucky guest "flips the switch." The attraction usually stays on past park closing, so guests can linger a bit as the crowds clear. The show is included in regular theme-park admission.



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December 13, 2014

Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to Winter the dolphin, offers special holiday events

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Although I focus on Orlando’s unique family attractions, I’ve written about Clearwater Marine Aquarium and its most famous resident, Winter the dolphin, several times since I became a blogger for AllEars.Net. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know this is in part because CMA is a place that my family and I enjoy spending time together. But a bigger motivation for me is that I know my daughter is far from alone in her love of Winter, and I want our readers to understand what they can gain from squeezing in a visit to Clearwater when they are in Orlando for a theme-park vacation.

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The release of the “Dolphin Tale 2” DVD this week has given me another opportunity to share with fans, new and seasoned, what is new in Winter’s world this month.

First, the DVD. It, of course, contains the cinematic release, but “Dolphin Tale” fans will be pleased to find a slew of bonus features, as well. (You can read my review of the movie here.) Viewers can see what real-life rescue and rehabilitation work at CMA is like, and it’s inspiring -- just like a visit a CMA, which is a working animal hospital. Those interested in movie-making will find fascinating the bonus short that reveals how underwater scenes in “Dolphin Tale 2” were filmed. In another segment, Bethany Hamilton, the professional surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack, is shown meeting Winter. As with other meetings between the famous dolphin and people with disabilities, it’s touching to witness. Finally, there’s a blooper roll. Fans of Winter and the film franchise clearly will enjoy this latest DVD release.

But if you find yourself in Florida during the weeks surrounding Christmas, CMA even has some special events that will take you beyond simply watching Winter’s story on the screen. Holiday Mini-Camps are offered from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 21-23 or Dec. 29-31.

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The official description of the camps is as follows: “Join us as we learn all about our Florida marine life and their cold water cousins through fun-filled interactions with some of Clearwater Marine Aquarium's resident animals. Discover how blubber and fur work to keep animals warm, prepare treats to lift our rescued animals' holiday spirit and spend time out on the water, seeing animal adaptations in action. Tour behind-the-scenes areas, participate in a fish feeding session, play educational games and make crafts, as we compare animal adaptations here in Florida and in the coldest regions of the world. Have a Holly Jolly holiday full of fun at Clearwater Marine Aquarium!”

The three-day price is $199 for members and $240 for non-members. Single-day prices are $75 for members and $90 for non-members. There is a waitlist for the Dec. 29-31 combo session. You can register on the CMA website.

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As if that isn’t enticing enough, two of the “Dolphin Tale 2” actors will be visiting the aquarium, and visitors will have the chance to meet them. Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer, will be at CMA Dec. 27-30, and Austin Highsmith, who plays Phoebe, will be there Dec. 20-22. My daughter was over the moon when she met both actors during a visit this past summer. If the meet-and-greets work the same way as ours did, the actors had a limited time to meet fans, so no autographs were permitted. However, you could take photos, and CMA had one of its photographers there, as well. You have the option to purchase those images afterward.

During the summer, Gamble and Highsmith joined Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who played Hazel, for a question-and-answer session with Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates that we attended. You can view it here.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is just a 90-minute drive from Orlando. Whether you’re a local resident looking for a little different holiday experience for the family this year or an out-of-state visitor who has never been this close to Winter’s home, the holiday mini-camps and the actors’ visits are good excuses to take a road trip and experience one more mid-Florida attraction that makes this state so unique.



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December 11, 2014

Disney Publishing launches digital education apps for young children

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When my children were younger they were big fans of Disney Publishing’s storybook apps. These apps allow young readers to be immersed in popular Disney stories -- and practice reading -- because of the many interactive features. Now, it appears that Disney Publishing is building on its success by introducing Disney Imagicademy, a new technology-driven learning initiative designed for families with children ages 3 to 8.

Disney Imagicademy exposes children to fundamental education concepts using familiar Disney characters. The curriculum was developed with the help of education and early-childhood-development experts.

The first five of the 30 app-based experiences are available today exclusively on the Apple app store. In addition, there is a companion app out for parents that will help them guide their child's learning. The apps cover key subject matters that are important for early childhood development, including math, creative arts, science, language arts and social and emotional skills.

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Among today’s releases is Mickey's Magical Math World, an iPad-exclusive app that features five math activities: "Mickey's Super Rocket Shapes," "Donald's Number Launcher," "Minnie's Robot Count-Along," "Daisy's Bedtime Countdown" and "Goofy's Silly Sorting." Each experience features progressive early math concepts, including counting forward and backward, sort and classify, skip count, numbers and shapes recognition, reason and logic and more.

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The companion app, Disney Imagicademy Parents, gives parents real-time updates about their children's progress, the ability to reward accomplishments digitally and remotely through digital high-fives, and opportunities to inspire non-digital learning through ideas tied directly to concepts children are exposed to in the apps.

The second set of digital apps in the Disney Imagicademy line-up is Mickey's Magical Arts World. Focused on creative arts, the suite will be available for download in January.

Physical products and learning toys will be available in time for back-to-school shopping in 2015, featuring brands such as, including Smart Toy, Kid Designs, Wonder Forge and Mercury Active.

"Disney Imagicademy's integrated program connects children's apps, a parents app and physical toys to create a unique family experience that helps inspire a lifelong love of learning,” said Jeffrey Sellinger, senior vice president of Disney Learning, in a news release. “The physical and digital worlds are coming together in nearly every industry, and with Disney Imagicademy, the learning field is no exception."



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December 9, 2014

A touring plan for SeaWorld Orlando's Christmas Celebration

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SeaWorld Orlando offers so many attractions for the holidays that you easily could spend the better part of a day focusing on just the Christmas activities. So, in that spirit, here is touring plan to map out just how to do that.

My plan has an arrival time of 12:30 p.m., and I am assuming you have already eaten lunch. If you want to eat on property, arrive sooner. Also, my plan is for about 9 hours in the park. If your party is up for a longer day, arrive at park opening to experience some of the other attractions.

Here we go!

12:30 p.m.: Enter SeaWorld Orlando and go straight to the Polar Express, which is an overlay at the Wild Arctic attraction. This experience typically has long lines during the holidays, so be prepared. The Singing Conductors (seen below) perform regularly in front of the queue to keep crowds entertained. Polar Express starts with a short film, and then visitors enter a simulator for the train ride to the North Pole.

Upon arrival, they will see the Beluga whales and, around the bend, Santa Claus dressed just as he is in the popular movie. There may be a short line to meet him, so I’m allowing extra time at this attraction. There also is a beautiful Christmas tree in this area that is a great backdrop for family photos.

Moving on, you can purchase the hot chocolate made popular in the movie and see the walruses before exiting the attraction.

2:45-3 p.m.: Head to Seaport Theater to grab a seat for Elmo’s Christmas Wish. This is a must-see for families with little ones. Although my own children are well past the age at which they enjoy Elmo, when they were into the red muppet, they could not get enough of him. The first show starts at 3:15 p.m.

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4:30 to 5 p.m.: Time to get in line for the 5:30 p.m. ‘O Wondrous Night’ performance. This is SeaWorld Orlando’s most popular Christmas production, so you may want to check on the queue even sooner if you want to see a particular show. ‘O Wondrous Night’ is a retelling of Jesus’ birth that includes gospel-style singing and dancing, puppeteers and a live Nativity. The finale with three large camels truly is a sight to behold.

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6 or 6:35 p.m.: Walk to any spot with a view of Bay Harbor and enjoy the short Sea of Trees show during which the lights on the Christmas trees in the water “dance” to music. If you view the trees from the shops at The Waterfront at 6:35 p.m., you can experience “snow flurries” afterward at that location.

6 to 7 p.m.: Stroll through the Christmas Market, the pathway that runs from the dolphin nursery to Bayside Stadium. This area is jam-packed with fun holiday offerings. See large-scale trains travel through an elaborate display; warm up by a fire pit; listen to roaming carolers; take holiday-themed photos; try your hand at games of chance; shop at the toy kiosks; and sample holiday food and beverages, including hot toddies for the adults.

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7 to 7:15 p.m.: Start making your way to Shamu Stadium for the night’s only performance of Shamu Christmas Miracles at 7:45 p.m. Although the killer whales make an appearance at 7:45 p.m., there is an amazing pre-show by a solo saxophonist that you won’t want to miss. The orca show itself is worth seeing, combining the animal’s feats with an engaging holiday story.


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8:15 p.m.: Don’t delay after the Shamu show – make your way straight to Bayside Stadium for the best show of the night, Winter Wonderland on Ice, which begins at 8:30 p.m. There is a pre-show here, too, but you likely will miss it if you go to Shamu Christmas Miracles. The main production, which features ice skating to traditional Christmas songs, is my family’s favorite holiday experience at SeaWorld Orlando. It’s such a feast for the senses that you won’t want to look away. Stay seated after the finale for Holiday Reflections, a fountains and fireworks show.

Please be sure to check a daily schedule sheet when you arrive at SeaWorld Orlando because show times are subject to change. Remaining dates for SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration are Dec. 12-14 and Dec. 19-31.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of SeaWorld Orlando to experience its Christmas Celebration. This did not influence my story, and my opinions are my own.

Related links:
Santa’s Fireside Feast: http://land.allears.net/blogs/kristin-ford/2012/11/santas_fireside_feast_begins_w.html



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December 6, 2014

Now Snowing Nightly in Celebration gives visitors a taste of winter near Walt Disney World

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For years, one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is a visit to see “snow” just outside the gates of Walt Disney World. The town of Celebration hosts "Now Snowing Nightly" – a flurry of soap bubbles -- from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, and it’s open to the public at no charge.

The shopping district is quite festive with the “snowfall,” Christmas decorations, live music on Saturdays, ice skating, horse-drawn carriages, simulated train rides, visits with Santa Claus and restaurants to fit a range of budgets and tastes.

Sound tempting? Here are some tips that I have put together after years of fun visits to this event:

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** Snow falls daily at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Market Street. There’s no need to queue up to experience the snow – just step into the street, which is blocked off from traffic.

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** Crowds are heavier later in the night and on weekends. You could have guessed that, though, right? This won’t affect your ability to experience the snow, but it makes finding street parking and a table at some restaurants more difficult. Some take reservations, so be sure to check if you would like to dine at places such as Cuban treasure Columbia Restaurant. Our family is fond of the Market Street Café -- a diner that’s perfect for an inexpensive, yet satisfying, family meal.

** Tonight’s live performance, called A Celebration of Voices, features local elementary school choirs and the Stand Up Tour of young artists, including IM5 and Hollywood Ending. On Dec. 13, Radio Disney hosts its annual holiday concert featuring After Romeo and Taylor Buono. On Dec. 20, Jason Castro performs at A Countdown to Christmas. We have attended the Radio Disney concert several times and definitely noticed that those nights are popular with crowds, especially tweens and teens.

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** The ice skating rink really is a hard plastic surface that kids use skates to glide on. The Endless Ice offers them the traditional winter experience without as many painful spills. This rink even encourages beginning skaters to use supports (that look a lot like walkers) while they learn. Skating, which includes skate rental, is $10 per 30 minutes and it's open from 4 to 10 p.m. daily.

** Horse and carriage rides are $25 for the first two passengers and $10 for each additional person. Group wagon rides are $5 per person. Plus, Holiday Home Tours can be booked by calling 321-624-6380. They are 30-40 minutes long and cost $25 per person.

** Santa Claus greets families each night from 6 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 24. (He starts 30 minutes earlier on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.) There is no charge for the visit, and photo packages start at $24.99. Pets are welcome on Wednesdays.

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** When my son and daughter were younger, they couldn't wait to ride the Holiday Train on a short trip through town. It's $5 per person. Tickets can be purchased for $4 before 4 p.m. at Confetti, Market Street Gallery or Sanrio Surprises.

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** Speaking of Sanrio Surprises … This little store sells everything you can imagine related to Hello Kitty and even hosts birthday parties. On most nights of "Now Snowing Nightly," Sanrio Surprises hosts story time with Hello Kitty, and then guests have the opportunity to take their photos with her. The free 10-minute activity is at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. and is limited by space, so be sure to line up a few minutes early.

If you’re looking for a fun holiday getaway not far from Orlando or the gates of Walt Disney World, you’ll find that the town of Celebration certainly lives up to its name during the holidays. And if you’re a native Floridian, you’ll appreciate a chance to have a white Christmas after all. Good luck building that bubbly Olaf snowman, though.



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December 4, 2014

Is runDisney's Expedition Everest Challenge on your calendar?

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As Orlando residents and longtime annual passholders, my family and I have experienced much of what Walt Disney World has to offer. One thing we have not tried, however, is runDisney races. That’s about to change, though.

My husband has enjoyed running for many years, and recently our 12-year-old son has expressed as interest, too. I attempted to register them for the Family 5K at the Marathon Weekend in January, but I wasn’t quick enough. Deb Wills had the same trouble, as well, unfortunately. We both were surprised to learn that many of the races that weekend sold out in hours!

So, our family regrouped, and my son decided he wanted to make his running debut at the Expedition Everest Challenge on May 2, 2015, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Registration opens to the public at noon on December 16, but one of the perks of being an annual passholder is being able to register for runDisney events in advance. For this particular race, Disney passholders could begin registering at noon on Dec. 2. By that evening, though, the passholder spots were full.

I’m told that most runners attempt this particular race in teams of at least two people. That’s because the challenge is more than just running a 5K – as if that wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for some of us! After the runners finish the required 3.1 miles, they tackle an obstacle course and then a scavenger hunt. Upon crossing the finish line and collecting their medals, they can join a post-race party in Dinoland, U.S.A., which is included in the entry fee. The party features a DJ, and food and drinks can be purchased. Expedition Everest is open, as are Kali River Rapids and the rides in Chester and Hester’s DinoRama.

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Team members have to be at least 9 years old, and if one team member is younger than 13, he or she has to be participating with an adult. The Expedition Everest Challenge is one of the few runDisney night races. It starts at 10 p.m., and the post party continues until 2:30 a.m.

This is the 15th year for the Expedition Everest Challenge, and it appears that it will be the last. The official runDisney page describes the 2015 race this way: “Take a final run on the wild side and uncover the mystery of the clues! Get your bragging rights as one of the final runners who faced the Expedition Everest Challenge before it's too late!”

Runners on various public message boards have speculated that this will make the Expedition Everest Challenge more popular, so be prepared to get online quickly on Dec. 16.

Registration will be available at runDisney.com. The race costs $125 per person or $240 for a two-person team. Entry fees include the challenge with Disney characters, a short-sleeve tech shirt, personalized race bib (if registered before March 3), a finisher medal, post-race refreshments, and the after-party festivities in the theme park. Friends and family members can purchase tickets to the after-party event for $49 for adults and $25 for children ages 3 to 9. Prices increase after March 23, 2015.



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December 1, 2014

Details on Disney Store's Cyber Monday deals

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DisneyStore.com, which carries a selection of products from Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line, will be participating in today’s Cyber Monday with great deals.

With the code CYBER, shoppers can get 25 percent off $100 or more; 20 percent off $75 or more; or 15 percent off $50 or more, plus free shipping with purchases $75 and more.

In addition, the site is extending its Magical Friday sale, which has marked down hundreds of items by 40 percent, through Monday.

Disney Parks products include jewelry, traditional mouse ear hats, Beautifully Disney makeup, golf accessories, clothing, spa products, cell phone cases, the Jack Skellington collection and toys, such as the monorail and Cinderella Castle play sets. Dooney & Bourke and Vera Bradley bags are not included in the sale.

There is a wonderful selection of holiday merchandise from Disney Parks, including the new retro collection that everyone is raving about. Look for an assortment of stockings, advent calendars, figurines, nutcrackers, greeting cards and ornaments.

Of course, Disney Store carries its own merchandise, too. Shoppers can find “Frozen”-themed items, as well as gifts with classic characters Mickey Mouse and friends and Marvel super heroes. Plus, this is the first holiday season that Disney Store will offer an exclusive assortment of Stars Wars merchandise, including all-new detailed die cast vehicles inspired by the original “Star Wars” saga.

Disney Store also carries an assortment of favorite Disney Junior characters, including Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First.

There is an expanded holiday collection, including pajamas for the whole family, Christmas sweatshirt and plush characters dressed in their holiday finest.

Too many choices?

Check out Disney Store’s “Most-Wished-For Toys” listing. You can search by price or gender. Gift-givers will find a selection of merchandise at a range of prices that work with any budget, including holiday ornaments for $8, classic Disney Princess dolls for $10 and Toy Story Talking Action Figures for $20. For guests looking for extra special gifts, Disney Store also offers deluxe items, such as a line of beautiful costumes featuring Elsa, Anna, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and others ($89.95 – $99.95).

To add convenience for online shopping, Disney Store is piloting a new feature this season, giving guests the flexibility to reserve gifts online and pick-up in stores. Guests can also take advantage of Disney Store's free 'buy in-store, ship to home' service.

In stores, shoppers can use Apple Pay, a new payment service that allows for a faster and more convenient way to pay. Using the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay simplifies the check-out process for guests and Cast Members alike. For online and mobile shopping, Disney Store also updated its free mobile app to include Apple Pay as a payment option, allowing for a faster check-out experience.

Guests who prefer to shop online or on-the-go will find a streamlined and user-friendly experience on Disney Store's Mobile Site and App. Through the Mobile Site, users can receive timely message alerts for new arrivals, in-store events and promotional offers.




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November 29, 2014

What's new with meeting Santa Claus at Walt Disney World

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Santa Claus began meeting with guests at his chalet at the Downtown Disney Marketplace earlier this month, and my children were among those getting in a pre-Thanksgiving visit. We have been going to this location outside the World of Disney store for years and look forward to our annual tradition. But this year, we decided to go earlier than usual -- before we and Santa are busy closer to Christmas.

In the past, we could count on a typical wait of 45 to 60 minutes to see Santa, especially on weekends in December, but it seems as if that is a ghost of Christmas past. Walt Disney World officials are employing their world-famous line-management techniques to help whittle away the amount of time guests actually have to stand in a queue.

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When the line begins to get unwieldy, cast members will begin placing visitors in a virtual queue with the use of pagers or text alerts to guests' cell phones. So, even if Santa may not be available to hear what's on your children's must-have lists for another two hours, you won't have to spend that time in line. You can shop, grab a bite to eat, or even just rest your tired feet. I'm told the pagers work from throughout the Marketplace -- from the Lego Imagination Center to Rainforest Cafe.

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Santa Claus will be at his chalet from noon to 9:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 24. He takes short breaks at 2:15, 4:45 and 7:30 p.m. Here are a few things to know before you go:

** You can take photos with your own camera, but the lighting in the chalet leaves a lot to be desired for folks using point-and-shoot cameras or cell phones. It certainly can be overcome with a more advanced camera, though. Ideally, you might want to try setting your light metering before it's your turn to talk to Santa.

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** Don't despair if you don't have fancy photo equipment! Professional photo prices are reasonable, compared with visiting Santa at many malls and events. I speak from a decade's worth of experience of meeting Mr. Claus when I say this. You can order a download of your favorite photo on My Disney Experience for the regular price of $15. Once you download the photo, you can make as many prints as you wish.

Despite his busy schedule before Christmas, Santa Claus will be making varied appearances at Walt Disney World. It would seem impossible, but the Jolly Old Elf can be found in these additional locations:

** Epcot: Santa and Mrs. Claus meet guests and pose for pictures at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 24 at The American Adventure. Plus, each country in the World Showcase also features storytellers who describe local holiday traditions. In many countries, the storyteller is a representation of Santa, such as Pere Noel in France and Father Christmas in England.

** Magic Kingdom: Santa makes an appearance at the end of Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Admission to the party requires a separate ticket.

If he's not called back to the North Pole, Santa likely will be in the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 20 to 24 and in most hotel lobbies between 5 and 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. (At Fort Wilderness, he can be found on the porch at Crockett's Tavern.)



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