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December 2012 Archives

December 1, 2012

Neil Patrick Harris shines as narrator at Disney's Candlelight Processional

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Like so many other Disney World guests, I look forward to the Candlelight Processional each year at Epcot. It's an incredible, moving performance that tells the Christmas story with a mass choir, 50-piece orchestra and celebrity narrator.

The long-running Candlelight Processional has continued to grow in popularity through the years, and as such, securing a good seat can take a bit of planning.

Guests who want to guarantee themselves a seat close to the stage can purchase lunch or dinner packages. Lunch packages range from $32.99 to $55.99 for adults and $12.50 to $17.99 for children ages 3 to 9. Dinner packages are $49.99 to $66.99 for adults and $14.50 to $26.99 for children ages 3 to 9. (See the AllEars.Net page for a list of participating restaurants.) In addition to reserved seating at the Candlelight Processional, meal packages also include VIP viewing of the nightly fireworks show, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.

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But you don't have to opt for the lunch or dinner packages to see the Candlelight Processional. A stand-bye queue forms outside the America Gardens Theatre before each show. Although folks in this line likely are to be seated in the back half of the theater, cast members really try to admit as many people as possible to each show. Many spectators even stand behind the seating and watch from the walkway between the outdoor theater and the American Adventure Pavilion.

To be sure, certain narrators are more popular than others. When Monique Coleman, who played Taylor McKessie in the "High School Musical" movies, was the narrator, I camped out in the stand-by line for a couple hours to ensure seats for my young kids, who were big fans of the series of movies.

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This week, I had the pleasure of hearing Neil Patrick Harris at the Candlelight Processional. He certainly is one of the bigger names to appear, and a cast member told me that everyone in the stand-by queue made it into the shows -- even with 1,000 dinner packages to accommodate that night.

Harris was great in his sixth year as a narrator. He opened by saying, "S'up?" and then launched into a story about how he used to scoff at Disney character meals. That has changed, he said, since he became the father of two-year-old twins. Now he sees those experiences as "manna from heaven."

After connecting with the guests, Harris launched into the story of Jesus' birth and his time on Earth. As is tradition, his narration was punctuated by traditional hymns delivered beautifully by the choir and orchestra. In fact, Harris could be seen nodding his head in time to the music and even singing along.

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The story and songs vary little from year to year, but even my children noticed a new section in the narration. Harris discussed a possibly romanticized -- yet still-compelling -- rendition of how "Silent Night" was created and would become "the most beloved of all Christmas carols."

As nice as this small change was to experience this year, the best part of the show for my daughter was one of the crowd favorites that we've enjoyed every year we've attended. The choir's performance of "When They Saw the Star/Rejoice with Execeeding Great Joy" continues its tradition of being an upbeat showstopper near the end of the performance.

The Candlelight Processional runs every evening until December 30. Shows are approximately 40 minutes. Each evening there are three shows -- 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. (except December 2, there is no 5 p.m. show)

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the Candlelight Processional. This did not influence my story, and my opinions are my own.

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December 4, 2012

Sailing away on the Disney Fantasy this week

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While many of you are enjoying New Fantasyland, I'll be living my own fantasy aboard Disney Cruise Line's newest ship, the Disney Fantasy. I'm taking a break a break from blogging this week, but will be back next week with all the holiday happenings.

December 11, 2012

Sailing aboard the Disney Fantasy during its first holiday season

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There's little doubt that sailing on the Disney Fantasy during its inaugural year is a memorable experience for most, but I recently discovered the holidays make it even more special.

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As soon as passengers enter the terminal at Port Canaveral, they will notice that the cruise line already has decorated for the season with a Christmas tree, wreaths and large ornaments.

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Once they board, the decorations are beautifully themed to each area of the ship. The lobby is elegant, with its giant tree and bountiful garlands. Other trees are whimsically designed to coordinate with their location. For example, the tree outside Animator's Palate has miniature paint palates. Cast members onboard the ship are even wearing red-and-white winter scarves as they greet the guests.

In addition to the decor, Cruise Director Brent has many holiday-themed activities planned for those who are interested.

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King Triton's Tree Lighting

On the first night of each cruise in December, the three-deck-tall Christmas tree in the grand lobby is the star of "King Triton's Tree Lighting" ceremony. We were fortunate to see the first such performance on the Fantasy on Dec. 1. A child is chosen from the audience to help MIckey Mouse and Minnie Mouse use the powers of the sea to bring the tree to life. Other children were selected to help throw confetti from the deck above the ceremony.

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The tree lighting is a short ceremony that takes place on Deck 3 and the grand staircase. Passengers can gather in the lobby or along the railings on Decks 4 and 5 to view the festivities.

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Tip: Arrive a little early for a good viewing spot and the possibility of your child being chosen to help with confetti.

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Gingerbread houses

It's impossible to miss the giant gingerbread house that has been constructed in the lobby on Deck 3. It smells delicious, and the sweet details are exquisite. Apparently, it's also a little too much temptation for some of the younger passengers who attempt to sneak a taste. A cast member told me that they have to make repairs about twice per week during the holiday season.

Guests ARE encouraged, however, to eat the gingerbread houses they make during a special session held in Animator's Palate. In part, that's because passengers cannot take such food items off the ship when they return to port.

To participate, guests must sign up for the traditional holiday activity held on one sea day during each cruise. Building the miniature treats was so popular on our cruise that the staff added multiple sessions as they filled up. The activity is limited to one gingerbread kit per stateroom, though the number of people working together is not restricted.

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In Animator's Palate, a chef walked all the budding architects through the process of constructing the house, and his instructions were shown on the video screens throughout the restaurant. My 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter and their cousins were able to follow along with just a little help from the adults in our group.

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Then, they were encouraged to decorate and sample their creations. With the exception of a few missing gumdrops, our gingerbread houses made it back to our staterooms intact and we enjoyed them for the remainder of the cruise.

Tips: Be sure to sign up as soon as possible if you're interested in participating in this activity. Also, many guests thought of creative ways to incorporate hidden Mickeys, so put on those thinking caps.

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Deck the Deck Tropical Holiday Party

On a port day, passengers were invited to a Deck the Deck Tropical Holiday Party on Decks 11 and 12 -- the pool and recreation areas near Donald's family pool.

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During this late-afternoon event, the characters appear on stage decked out in their holiday attire and they interact with selected children. The party kicks off with Chip and Dale hosting a limbo competition and continues with hula-hooping with Goofy and Pluto, a pass the coconut game with Lilo and Stitch, and dancing with Mickey and Minnie.

Unfortunately, our show was cut a little short by rain, so I'm not sure if there was more to come. I suspect there was.

Tip: If your child is not shy and would like to participate on stage, plan to be on Deck 11 at least 15 or 20 minutes before the party starts. Cast members will ask for young volunteers. They only can take 20 children, so once that number is reached, there is no wiggle room for more. (My son was in the Arr-cade when my daughter was chosen for the show, and he was disappointed to find out he couldn't join his sister in the party when he returned to our deck chairs.)

Castaway Cay

Although there weren't holiday activities per se on Castaway Cay, there is a nice photo opportunity on the pier for families wanting to capture a Christmas or winter image.

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On another note: Participants in the Castaway 5K are again receiving medals for completing the island race. There was a period in which paper certificates were being awarded instead of medals and many guests were upset about this. The medals are a nice holiday surprise for participants, no doubt.

For a look at Disney Cruise Line's exclusive holiday merchandise, please see my previous blog, and stay tuned for more details from my Disney Fantasy voyage.

December 13, 2012

Disney Fantasy's newest port of call: Puerto Rico

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For Disney guests who book a magical cruise, the island of enchantment now awaits.

Disney Cruise Line recently added a new port of call on the Disney Fantasy's Eastern Caribbean itinerary: San Juan, Puerto Rico. And the cruise line offers passengers a wide range of opportunities to explore the island through its 26 shore excursions.

Last week, I was among the guests exiting the ship and stepping into the rich history of the U.S. commonwealth. For me, it even was a homecoming of sorts because I lived on the island when I was in elementary school and hadn't been back to visit in more than 20 years.

Although my family chose to visit our favorite places on our own, I can tell you that Disney Cruise Line's offerings will give guests a true taste of the Puerto Rican culture. What and how you experience it depends on your selections.

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There are typical Caribbean outings such as a beach day in Isla Verde, snorkeling from a catamaran or scuba diving. My family always enjoys these types of excursions, but I think choosing them in Puerto Rico is almost doing yourself a disservice when there are so many unique experiences to be enjoyed.

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The Disney Fantasy docks in historic Old San Juan, and this part of the capital is marked by narrow brick streets with many artisans' shops, authentic Spanish and Caribbean restaurants, piraqua (shaved ice) vendors in parks, and two of the oldest Spanish forts in the Caribbean. Passengers from many cruise ships wander this area without guides, and it generally is considered safe for tourists.

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Still, Disney Cruise Line offers walking and bicycle tours and shuttle excursions of Old San Juan, too. Some include the exploration of San Cristobal fortress, and one allows passengers a hands-on cooking demonstration and lunch.

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Another wonderful place in Puerto Rico to explore is its tropical rainforest, El Yunque, which is part of the United States National Forest System. Disney Cruise Line offers port adventures for hiking, horseback riding and ATV exploration of El Yunque. These excursions begin with a 75-minute ride from the port to the rainforest. Once you arrive, be on the lookout for waterfalls and listen for the persistent sounds from coquis, Puerto Rico's native frogs.

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Passengers who enjoy active adventures also can experience the natural beauty of Puerto Rico from a kayak or zipline. A less strenuous taste of the island can be enjoyed with a tour of Puerto Rico's famous Bacardi rum distillery, the largest in the world.

Finally, Disney Cruise Line offers its passengers the opportunity to create their own customized itinerary for the day by choosing a private car and English-speaking driver for 4 or 8 hours. (Spanish and English are official languages of Puerto Rico, and English is spoken in all major tourist areas.)

The Disney Fantasy is scheduled to stop in San Juan on select Eastern Caribbean sailings through April 2013.


December 15, 2012

How Disney Fantasy voyages are different from other Disney Cruise Line vacations

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Formal night with Minnie Mouse

Sailing on the Disney Fantasy, which only makes weeklong voyages, is in many ways a different experience than shorter trips aboard other Disney Cruise Line ships. And it's not just the number of days at sea that is different.

I have been fortunate to sail on the Disney Wonder for three nights, the Disney Dream for four nights, and, most recently, the Disney Fantasy for seven nights. The most obvious difference is having ample time to explore all the activities on the ship. For a guest like me who wants to see and do everything, that means a more relaxing vacation, knowing that rushing isn't necessary.

Dining

Having seven nights for dinner means that each guest can dine in the three main restaurants -- Royal Court, Animator's Palate and Enchanted Garden -- twice and one restaurant three times. The menu, and the entertainment, will not be the same on each visit, though. Pirates In the Caribbean typically is celebrated on the fourth night of the cruise and it has its own menu that is offered in every restaurant. Without giving too much away, you definitely don't want to miss your second night in Animator's Palate because the dinner show is amazing. Plus, there is a formal night for those who want to dress up on longer Disney cruises.

With so many nights, adults also can choose to dine at Palo or Remy for an additional charge and not miss out on the other experiences with their families. These restaurants offer fine Italian and French food, respectively, and an adult-only, more formal atmosphere. We enjoyed dinner at Palo on the Dream and the Fantasy, and it was a great change of pace for everyone.

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On longer cruises, brunch also is offered at Palo. I was told that was an experience not to be missed, so we made reservations for the second sea day. The menu was delightful, offering guests egg specialties and pizzas cooked to order, a table of pastries, seafood -- including crab legs that were already cracked and shrimp that was already peeled, and other delicacies. Our party didn't even make it to the desserts!

Shows

In the past, my family and I did not want to miss any of the evening productions, so we rushed to one each night. On the Fantasy, like the other ships, there are three original Broadway-style shows, and the other nights feature entertainers and a movie. We chose to attend the performances and skip the rest. Instead, we spent more time at the pool and checked out family activities in the D Lounge, such as a family game show and Bingo. I definitely recommend making time to visit D Lounge if you have elementary-school-age children.

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Characters

On other cruises, my children have only been moderately interested in photos with the Disney characters. And that was fine with me. Because we live in Orlando and are fortunate to have Walt Disney World annual passes, I viewed the collection of autographs as something best done at home when our schedule wasn't so jam-packed.

This time, however, I made each of the four children in our group a cruise journal and they surprised me with how intent they were on completing the pages and filling others with character autographs. It became a weeklong quest for them to meet all the characters. Even my 10-year-old son and his male cousin wanted to meet the Disney princesses so they could have a "complete set" of autographs.

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Captain Tom Forberg autographs my son's model ship.

Kids clubs

Sailing for week onboard the Disney Fantasy definitely gave my children more time to enjoy the programming and freestyle activities in the children's clubs. We allowed them to check themselves in and out of the clubs, which worked out well. They scanned the navigator for activities that appealed to them and then got themselves there on time. The boys were especially excited about GAGA ball on this trip. My daughter made so many crafts that we have a whole shelf at home displaying her work.

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Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

My eight-year-old daughter loves visiting the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Walt Disney World, so it came as no surprise to me that she'd want to at least check out the salon that does princess makeovers on the Disney Fantasy. This sea location offers the same packages as the ones on land, but there are also several exclusive looks, too.

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The Under the Sea makeover captured my daughter's interest, mainly because instead of a princess gown, the girl can choose an Ariel style two-piece swimsuit with mermaid tail cover-up. The transformation also includes colored sun-block application, a Del Sol Floral Clip, a necklace and nail polish for $99.95. We opted to purchase the swimsuit and cover-up in the gift shop for about $50.

Disney cruise vacations of any length certainly offer their passengers a plethora of choices, but the Disney Fantasy seems to go above and beyond. What experiences have YOU found to be the most worthwhile about Disney Cruise Line's newest ship?


December 18, 2012

Meeting Santa Claus at Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World is, of course, known for making memories that last a lifetime. For Disney fans like me who live locally, the memories may even include celebrating recurring holiday activities, such as a visit with Santa Claus.

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My son was just months old when we stopped to see Santa at the Downtown Disney Marketplace for the first time in 2002. Since that year, we have revisited Santa's Chalet there several times.

Along the way, we learned a few things. Here are some tips that might save you time and hassles:

** If you want to see Santa when he arrives at noon, get in line well before that -- especially on weekends and as Christmas draws near. We arrived about 11:45 a.m. last Saturday and waited a little over an hour for my children's turn with The Big Man.

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** If you're not working around nap schedules or restaurant reservations and are flexible on time, get in line after the initial crowd disperses and you'll have a shorter wait. Santa will appear at his chalet in front of World of Disney from noon to 9:30 daily. He takes short breaks at 2:15, 4:45 and 7:30 p.m.

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** You can take photos with your own camera, but be aware that you will be standing slightly off to the side, unlike the professional photographer. Also, 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. If there's a long line when you arrive, you still might be able to stand to the side and set up your camera for the optimal setting.

** 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 DisneyPhotoPass.com for the regular price of $15 (and it's on sale now for $10). Once you download the photo, you can make as many prints as you wish.

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Despite his busy schedule the week 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 listen to guests' wish lists 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. Remaining dates are tonight (Dec. 180 and Dec. 20, 21. (Dec. 21 is sold out.) 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. 22 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.)


December 20, 2012

Best Friends Pet Care caters to furry family members during the holidays

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Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World

When families travel to Walt Disney World for the holidays, many wouldn't dream of leaving their pets home. And although most of the resorts on Disney property do not allow animals to stay with their humans, there is a special facility that not only welcomes furry friends, but caters to them, as well.

Best Friends Pet Care opened a luxury kennel at Walt Disney World in 2010. The national chain is known for its customized services and the individual attention that employees give each client. The Lake Buena Vista facility took those concepts a step farther, offering pets some over-the-top amenities, including a private dog park with a walking trail and a 1,300-square-foot "canines only" splash pad.

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Pluto is, of course, a popular theme at Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World.

During Christmas week, Mrs. Claus will be visiting and having her photo taken with guests. (Santa is too busy!) And on Christmas Day, dogs and cats who are boarded will be served a holiday dinner. For dogs, the meal includes turkey, carrots, green beans and sweet potato biscuits; cats are treated to caviar and shrimp.

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Best Friends associates Aimee (left) and Joann lead the dogs in "reindeer games."

As a result of special touches such as these, the kennel is often a busy place, but never more so than the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's. In fact, Best Friends at Disney World is fully booked for overnight boarding and day care through Jan. 2, 2013. There is a waiting list, too.

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Dogs are cheered on during Candy Cane Races by Best Friends associates (from left) Crystal, Joann and Taylor.

At this point, those guests on the wait list may be lucky to have a day care spot open up with a last-minute cancellation, but overnight boarding is unlikely, said spokeswoman Debra Bennetts. She recommends making holiday reservations by Oct. 1 at the latest. Bennetts said some families reserve one of the four VIP (Very Important Pet) suites -- with raised-platform beds, flat-screen televisions and private, covered outdoor play yards -- a year in advance.

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A VIP (Very Important Pet) suite

Even if you can't book a stay for your pet at the local Best Friends site, you still might be interested to know about other events being sponsored by the company. Disney World's Best Friends location is celebrating the winter holidays in a variety of ways, including decking the halls and helping the less fortunate. Each of the 42 pet-care centers in the chain has an Angel Tree in its lobby with paper ornaments featuring photos and information about dogs and cats waiting for permanent homes. Guests are invited to choose a rescue or shelter animal in need to help with basic supplies.

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Best Friends associate Adam and guest dog Trinny pose near the Angel Tree at the Disney World location.

Donations to the Walt Disney World facility benefit Pet Rescue by Judy and Paws for Peace Kennel at Harbor House of Central Florida, a shelter for domestic-violence victims. Best Friends contributes to these organizations, as well, Bennetts said. The Angel Tree program is accepting donations through Dec. 31.

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Best Friends Treat Truck

Want to give your pet a free taste of the good life? Best Friends' Treat Truck has been traveling between cities where the kennels are located. Today (Dec. 20), the truck will be parked at Partin Triangle Dog Park, 2830 Neptune Road in Kissimmee, from 3 to 6 p.m. Canines are invited to sample doggy ice cream and cookies while their owners learn about the fun and services offered at Best Friends centers.

The Treat Truck will remain in Orlando in January, before heading to Texas in February and then north through the spring. Check here for the official tour schedule.

Check out the AllEars Reader Reviews (and leave one of your own)


December 22, 2012

Disney's Club Penguin video game involves kids in charity donations

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Here's a reason to actually encourage your child to play on the computer. Disney's Club Penguin, one of the largest online virtual worlds for kids, is donating $1 million to charities during the holiday season, based on its players' actions.

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Club Penguin kicked off its annual "Coins for Change" program on Thursday, and it runs through Jan. 2. During that time, players can donate the virtual coins they earn on Club Penguin Island to three types of charities: providing medical aid, building safe places and protecting the earth. Those contributions will help The Walt Disney Co. determine how it will earmark its charitable giving.

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The site has added a new feature this year to entice giving. At the virtual bake sale, players can purchase racer cookies and paid members can buy Reindeer Puffle and Frost Bites cookies. The types of cookies designate which charity receives the coins they spend for the cookies. As a reward for giving, players and members can transform into the shapes of the cookies for 10 minutes. Only the Frost Bites come with the special powers to freeze virtual items temporarily.

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My 10-year-old son, who is an avid Club Penguin member, was so excited about the start of Coins for Change that he got up early on the first day to start his donations before school. For kids who are at the age where video games are a large part of their entertainment, programs such as Coins for Change send a positive message and help model behaviors that allow the kids to learn more about the world.

Since its inception in 2005, Club Penguin has given a total of $9 million to charities all over the world. The money has been spent in 42 countries on projects such as building new schools, libraries and playgrounds for kids, as well as ensuring clean water and educational programs for families.

"Over the past six years, Coins for Change has inspired our players to take action and make a difference in the lives of millions of kids and families all over the world," said Chris Heatherly, head of Club Penguin, in a written statement. "We hope this year's Coins for Change virtual bake sale empowers our players to start similar programs and make a positive difference in their local communities."

ClubPenguin.com offers suggestions and safety tips for hosting a real-life bake sale for charity. There even are recipes for Rockhopper Cookie Mix and Puffle Sugar Cookies.


December 25, 2012

It's "snowing" near Disney World in town of Celebration through Dec. 31

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It's not as unusual to see "snow" in the Sunshine State as you might think. After all, this is Orlando, home of a "sea world," a "gator land" and a "magic kingdom." And it's also a place where we Floridians like to pretend we have all the elements of a traditional white Christmas, however improbable that may sound.

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Each year, the town of Celebration, which is located in Walt Disney World's back yard, hosts "Now Snowing Nightly" from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve. The snow -- um, soap bubbles -- falls at daily 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Market Street. We've been going to this event for years, but it was a little different this year. Despite the cold temperatures, it didn't seem as wintry because the "snow" was not allowed to accumulate on the brick street. That was disappointing because it certainly affected the make-believe wintertime look of the street.

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Still, the Celebration Town Center is festive with Christmas music playing during each snowfall, Santa waiting to greet children, and even carriages and a train standing ready to take guests for rides to see the holiday lights.

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Our family outing usually consists of eating dinner and then enjoying the entertainment. There are some wonderful places to dine, such as Cuban treasure The Columbia Restaurant, but for an inexpensive family meal, we like the Market Street Cafe. Through the years, we have learned that planning to have an early dinner helps avoid a long wait for a table (and also makes street parking, which is free, easier) on weekend nights during Now Snowing Nightly. The later it gets, the more crowded the streets become and the harder it is to find a close parking spot.

After dinner, we check out the snow and, perhaps, the live music. On several Saturdays in December, the town hosts performances, including Radio Disney's Holiday Concert, which features the winners of its annual N.B.T. (Next Big Thing) contest.

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My children also have enjoyed the "ice skating" rink, which 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.

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For the less athletic, like me, there are various ways to see the sights of Celebration. 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.

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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. Certainly, this sweet character is enjoying renewed popular among girls, and even adults. 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. My 8-year-old daughter was thrilled to meet the "real" Hello Kitty.

The last "snowfalls" of the season happen on New Year's Eve. In between, guests can hear DJ Tami perform. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., Katty Shack will entertain crowds, and the new year will be celebrated with a fireworks show at midnight.

December 27, 2012

Walt Disney World should adapt Disneyland's Three KIngs Day celebration

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Many Hispanic and Latin cultures continue their Christmas celebrations past Dec. 25, and The Walt Disney Co. is recognizing that with its second annual Three Kings Day event at Disneyland. It's certainly a good fit there with so many Californians of Mexican heritage, but it also would seem to work well here in Florida with our large number of residents from Puerto Rico and Cuba, too.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Jan. 6, many Spanish-speaking areas of the world recognize the day that the Three Kings are said to have arrived in Bethlehem, bringing gifts for the baby Jesus. In that tradition, on the eve of Three Kings Day, Hispanic and Latin children leave under their beds bowls of water and shoeboxes of hay or grass for the kings' camels. (This is similar to kids' leaving out cookies and milk for Santa Claus.) In return, the Three Kings leave gifts for children who have been good during the year.

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Three Kings Day is an important holiday for the Hispanic and Latin cultures, especially in Mexico and Puerto Rico, because of its religious significance in these predominantly Roman Catholic countries. At Walt Disney World's Epcot, the Three Kings are represented as the Mexico pavilion's Holiday Storytellers Around the World. These costumed cast members share their role in celebrating Christmas during 15-minute presentations multiple times each day. Catch them at 1:30, 2:15, 3:15, 4, 4:45, 5:30, 6:30 & 7:15 p.m. through Dec. 30. (See their story HERE.)

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Still, Disneyland has found a three-day celebration of Three Kings Day -- this holiday season from Jan. 4 to 6, 2013 -- to better engage visitors and I really have to think that it would do well in Orlando, too. The California event focuses more on the Mexican cultural aspects of the holiday with folklorico dancing, Mariachi musical performers and crafts for kids, than on the religious aspects. (More details on the AllEars.Net news blog.)

If Walt Disney World were to adapt its sister theme park's Three Kings Day celebration, it certainly could showcase Puerto Rican culture as an alternative. In the United States, Florida has the second-largest number of Puerto Ricans after New York, according to Bloomberg. Furthermore, Walt Disney World already recruits these U.S. citizens from its Caribbean commonwealth to work for the theme park. "Here, we're Mickey-Ricans," Emilio Perez, chairman of the Central Florida Redistricting Council Inc., a local non-profit group that tracks issues important to Florida Hispanics, told the news service.

By Disney's account, last year's first Three Kings Day celebration at Disneyland was a "big success," which has led to the expanded offerings this year. Surely, the same event -- with a focus on Puerto Rican culture -- would do just as well in Orlando, giving locals and guests a reason to visit the parks in the slower period at the beginning of the new year.


December 28, 2012

Where to celebrate New Year's Eve with Disney and your kids

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There are plenty of options for kids to ring in 2013 with Disney this year. If your family is visiting Walt Disney World, each of the four theme parks has special events planned for New Year's Eve. (More details on AllEars.Net.) But if you'd like to celebrate outside the parks -- which presumably would be less crowded and less expensive -- with your favorite Disney characters and personalities, here are some possibilities.

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DisneyQuest at Walt Disney World

DisneyQuest, which houses five floors of video and virtual games at Downtown Disney, is again hosting a family friendly event on Dec. 31. In addition to unlimited use of the the games, there will be two DJ dance parties, meet-and-greets with Disney characters, and a New Year's Eve countdown and confetti drop at midnight.

Tickets, which include a meal and beverage, can be purchased in advance for $50 online or by calling 407-934-7639. Space permitting, tickets also will be sold at DisneyQuest the day of the event for $60.

Although I have not been to the end-of-the-year celebration, my family has had annual passes to DisneyQuest, so I can tell you how much fun it is for elementary-school-age children. In addition to the arcade-style video games, there are many games that accommodate four players, including air hockey and Pac-Man. Plus, there are opportunities to create music and art.

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Radio Disney's Noon Year's Eve

In 20 cities in the United States, including two in Florida, Radio Disney hosts Noon Year's Eve celebrations for kids who might not stay up past their bedtimes to ring in the new year.

The closest location to Orlando will be at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo (1101 West Sligh Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday. The Noon Year's Eve event is free and features the best songs of the year from Radio Disney's "Top 50 of 2012," interactive entertainment hosted by the Radio Disney 1380 Road Crew, a special countdown and a juice toast.

In Miami, the Radio Disney AM 990 Road Crew joins the New Year's Eve celebration at Bayfront Park (301 N Biscayne Boulevard Miami, FL 33132) from 6 p.m. to midnight. This is also a free party in South Florida with dancing, fireworks over Biscayne Bay and the countdown of "La Gran Naranja" (The Big Orange).

Participants at Noon Year's Eve events in Philadelphia, Boston, Phoenix and Miami can enter "The Chevrolet presents: Family Ride of a Lifetime Sweepstakes." Prizes include one 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, a trip for six to Walt Disney World, and a signed Justin Bieber guitar and concert tickets.

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Celebration Town Center

As I mentioned in another post this week, the last "snowfalls" of the season in the town of Celebration, in Disney World's back yard, happen on New Year's Eve. Show flies at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m., and in between, guests can hear DJ Tami perform. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., Katty Shack will entertain crowds, and the new year will be celebrated with a fireworks show at midnight. This event is free and some of the paid holiday activities still will be available.

Of course, there's always the tradition of watching Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2013 on Disney-owned ABC. This year's broadcast from Times Square in New York features Ryan Seacrest hosting and Taylor Swift headlining the musical performances. Carly Rae Jepsen ("Call Me Maybe") and Neon Trees will perform as well.

Have a safe and Happy New Year!

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About December 2012

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in December 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2012 is the previous archive.

January 2013 is the next archive.

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