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December 2013 Archives

December 3, 2013

Disney World's Limited Time Magic allows guests to donate Duffy bears to Toys For Tots


When the winter holiday season arrives, many parents look for concrete ways to demonstrate to their children the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate. For some, that mission is accomplished through their places of worship. For others, it is through community groups and charities.

One donation method, though, that is easy for children of all ages to grasp is the nationwide Toys For Tots program. Participants donate new, unwrapped toys during the months of October, November and the first part of December, and then the gifts are distributed during the second half of December. Toys For Toys, which is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, aims to inspire hope in youngsters "that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens."

Local campaigns are conducted in more than 700 communities in all 50 states, including Orlando. And for this week, Walt Disney World is offering a special Limited Time Magic deal to benefit Toys For Tots. For each $5 donation from a guest, Walt Disney World will give a 17-inch Duffy the Disney Bear to Toys for Tots.


I really love this promotion for so many reasons. Most importantly, these donations will put new "friends" in the hands of many children who really need them. Time and again, parents watch their children bond with special stuffed animals -- teddy bears or other loveys -- and the animals provide a sense of security and comfort. Imagine what they could do for children in families where futures are uncertain.

For families who can afford extras, like vacations at Walt Disney World, this offer gives them an easy way to share some of the Disney magic with those who are less fortunate. It's easy to make a simple donation and show children how it can help others. It's also a great teachable moment to ask your child to spend $5 of their own souvenir money to help other kids have a better Christmas and learn an easy lesson about personal sacrifice. Or, if children are too young to have their own money, parents can explain that instead of mom and dad enjoying a particular treat in the theme parks that day, they are donating the Duffy the Disney Bear instead.

The 17-inch Duffy the Disney Bear retails for $30, so guests can feel good about the value of their donations, too.

And, as teachable moments go, don't forget to note a historical aspect of the program either. Point to the Toys For Tots train logo at the collection site and ask the kids if they know where it was created. Then tell them how, in 1948, the logo actually was created by Disney animators as Walt Disney Studios joined with other Hollywood filmmakers to support this worthy program. That Disney-created artwork has been used ever since.

Donations for the Duffy bears are being accepted at Once Upon a Toy or World of Disney at Downtown Disney Marketplace though Dec. 8. In addition to subsidizing the plush bears, Walt Disney World is donating $200,000 to Toys for Tots this holiday season.


December 5, 2013

Where to find Santa Claus (and the Mrs.) at Walt Disney World


What could be more magical than meeting Santa Claus when you're at Walt Disney World? Fortunately, there are many opportunities for local guests and for visitors staying on property to persuade the Big Man they belong on the Nice List.


Leading up to Christmas Eve, Santa welcomes guests at his chalet at Downtown Disney. This is one of the most popular locations, perhaps because it is completely free. There is no charge for parking and no obligation to purchase professional photos from Disney's PhotoPass team. Families can use their own cameras, though the lighting in the chalet isn't the best for point-and-shoot cameras or cell phones. A more advanced camera, though, would be able to compensate.

If you don't have an expensive camera, though, consider purchasing a professional image. Prices start at about $15 for a download, which is a lot less expensive than many other locations.



Santa's Chalet is located between World of Disney and Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop and is open from noon to 9:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 24. Santa takes short breaks to feed his reindeer at 2:15, 4:45 and 7:30 p.m. As you would expect, a line forms before the chalet opens. The average wait is about 30 minutes, I'm told.


This year, the new animated movie, "Disney's Frozen," has a presence at Santa's Chalet. There are signs showing the main characters and a cute photo opportunity with a statue of Olaf the snowman. Plus, when we were there last weekend, cast members were handing out "Frozen" trading cards at the exit.

My husband and I have been taking our children to this location since they were very little, so I was surprised when a cast member told us recently that Santa's Chalet will be moving to the West Side near Cirque du Soleil for the 2014 season. Apparently, the chalet will be only one part of a larger Winter Wonderland area. Sounds interesting, right?

If you're going to be at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot before Christmas Day, you'll be able to find Santa splitting his time there, as well. As improbable as it sounds, Santa is at Candy Cane Garden adjacent to City Hall in the Magic Kingdom each day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. He also stays for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and can be seen in the party's Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade.

At Epcot, guests also can meet Mrs. Claus with her hubby outside the American Adventure. The couple appears at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily for 70-minute sets. Plus, each country in the World Showcase also features storytellers who describe native holiday traditions. In many countries, the storyteller is a representation of Santa, such as Pere Noel in France and Father Christmas in England.

Finally, as in years past, if he's not called back to the North Pole, Santa likely will be 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 7, 2013

Disney-sponsored turtles finish amazing race off coast of Florida


Back in the summer, I told you about the start of the sixth annual Tour de Turtles from the beach in front of Disney's Vero Beach Resort. Now, the results of the race are in -- and Disney is a winner in more than one way.

Tour de Turtles was started by the Sea Turtle Conservancy as a way for researchers to study the long migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds while also engaging the public to learn more about this important part of our natural world. Tracking is accomplished through satellite telemetry, with transmitters sending signals each time a turtle surfaces to breathe, and progress is charted on tourdeturtles.org.


There were 13 sea turtles in this year's race, and they left from various nesting beaches around the world, including Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Vero Beach. (Other locations were Tortuguero, Panama, Nevis and Bermuda.) Disney sponsored two loggerhead turtles, Carrie and Claire, who placed fourth and sixth, respectively. First place went to Calypso Blue II, a giant female leatherback from Panama.

A secondary contest, though, challenged each sponsoring group to choose a cause and raise money to support it. Carrie's three-month swim was an effort to raise awareness about the danger of man-made light on beaches at night during nesting season. (Sea turtle hatchlings use the moonlight to guide them to the ocean, and artificial light can make them become disoriented.) Carrie raised $1,500 for her cause of Light Pollution and won the competition. Claire received an honorable mention for her efforts in raising $900 to educate the public about the dangers of sea turtles ingesting or becoming entangled in Plastic Debris.


Another measure of success for Tour de Turtles was the number of hatchlings that come from each sea turtle's nest. The Sea Turtle Conservancy reports that in a Tour de Turtles first, Carrie came back to Vero Beach again to nest for a second time in the same season. Her second nest was within one-half mile of her first. Carrie's first nest had the greatest number of hatchlings this season at 161. The second produced the same number, for a total of 322 baby sea turtles. Claire's nest offered 99 hatchlings.

The loggerhead turtles in the competition, who still have their transmitters attached, have been spotted together in the Atlantic Ocean near Cuba and the Bahamas. Apparently humans aren't the only species to seek a warm Caribbean vacation in the winter months.

Look for the 2014 Tour de Turtles to begin in late July or early August. Individuals are invited to sponsor a turtle participant with a donation of $30 ($40 outside the United States) to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. In return, they receive a personalized adoption certificate, a logo decal, a colorful magnet, STC's Sea Turtle Conservation Guide and a one-year subscription to the Velador, Sea Turtle Conservancy's newsletter.


December 11, 2013

What not to miss at SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration


Though the weather outside is a frightful 82 degrees, SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration is in full swing in Orlando. My family and I recently attended the holiday event and experienced a show we didn't see last year and a few new things along the way.




We started the evening for bloggers with a welcome from SeaWorld President Terry Prather. "Christmas at SeaWorld is not like any other place in Central Florida," he said. "In our world, we say that we own Christmas."

Despite the hyperbole, Prather's comment has an element of truth. There are so many Christmas-themed activities each evening at SeaWorld that it's impossible for a guest to view them all in one night. So, for first-time guests and those who only have one night, here's a look at all the experiences to help make your selections.

Last year, my son and I enjoyed dining at Santa's Fireside Feast, a traditional holiday meal with entertainment that included a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and reserved seating for "A Sesame Street Christmas." On multiple visits, we also experienced "Clyde and Seamore's Countdown to Christmas" and "Shamu Christmas -- Miracles," two shows we definitely recommend. (You can read all about them plus see videos here.)

Although most of the Christmas activities take place in the evening, The Polar Express Experience is open all day long, so be sure to make that part of your early touring plan. The Polar Express Experience is a Christmas overlay at the Wild Arctic attraction, and it even includes a visit to Santa once you arrive at the North Pole and the opportunity to purchase hot chocolate (like in the movie) inside the attraction. (See a full report here.)

At dusk, Bayside Village opens along the walkway to Bayside Stadium. This area, which often serves as the centerpiece for other special events at SeaWorld, has expanded offerings for the 2013 holiday season. There are Christmas-themed games; photo opportunities; food vendors selling treats, including the new Hot Toddies and Hot Chocolate S'mores Cobbler; a large fire pit with seating; and an expansive model train display. Plus, the walkway overlooks the gorgeous, lighted Sea of Trees in the bay.




Along the Waterfront, visitors will find additional Christmas snacks and shopping, plus the life-size snow globe is back. This photo opportunity allows guests to step inside an inflatable holiday prop with pretend "snow" that actually makes it appear as though you are standing inside a huge snow globe. If you see a short line, be sure to take advantage because this is a popular holiday attraction. A professional photographer will take your photo, but you also can use your own camera, as well.



This year, my family and I made it a point to see "O Wondrous Night," a retelling of the Christmas story that is sure to be a hit with younger audiences. Our performance started with a violinist playing popular Christmas carols, much to the delight of the audience, of which many in attendance sang along. The actual show features live gospel-style music from singers with powerful voices. Using humor and song, some of these performers also use puppets to tell the story of the baby Jesus' birth from the perspective of the animals in the stable. The finale is an amazing sight with live animals, including camels.




"We're very proud of how we use Christmas as a platform to not only celebrate what Christmas is all about -- the reason for the season is really the birth of Jesus Christ and we talk about that -- but more importantly, we use it as another way of celebrating, connecting, and showing people that we care," Prather said. "When you go to the shows, whether it's the ice show or "Shamu Miracles" or "O Wondrous Night" "� you'll see that we're all about connecting people to the natural world."

Speaking of the ice show, "Winter Wonderland on Ice" is a unique way to wrap up your holiday evening. Be prepared to be wowed by numbers with pairs and ensemble skaters. Many of the songs are the same as in previous years -- including classics and even the popular hot chocolate song from "The Polar Express" -- but the skaters have donned new apparel for the 2013 season.



Don't jump up to leave at the end of the ice skating show, unless you want to miss the Reflections Fireworks. Bayside Stadium is aptly named, and the beautiful fireworks show over the water also includes water jets and laser lights.


With so many wonderful holiday attractions like these and more at SeaWorld Orlando, it's easy to be in the holiday spirit. Just leave the scarves and snow mittens in your suitcase.


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.


December 14, 2013

Disney Cruise Line expands Halloween on the High Seas to all ships and keeps more Christmas sailings in 2014


Next year, pirate parties won't be the only themed events on all four Disney Cruise Line ships. The fleet recently announced that it will increase its holiday offerings in 2014: Halloween on the High Seas will expand to all four ships and Christmas activities will once again be available for six weeks.

"If you look at the trends, people are engaging more in holidays," Jennifer Haile, manager of Disney Cruise Line marketing strategy, told me. "Halloween continues to grow and grow, not only for kids, but also for adults. Adults are putting on costumes and trick-or-treating along with the kids. We realize that this is something where the whole family really gets in the spirit, and why not do it on the ship?"


Halloween on the High Seas is a collection of activities that debuted in 2013 on the Disney Dream. Among them were: Halloween Tree (a multi-day experience in the lobby); Mickey's Mouse-querade Party (trick-or-treating, games and a dancing with the characters in the atrium); Haunted Stories of the Sea (story-telling on the deck); spooky movie marathon; and an adult costume party. Some of my extended family members experienced Halloween on the High Seas and you can read about it and see plenty of photos here.

Perhaps the most popular event, though, in the first year was Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream. This interactive experience was described by some as a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for families, and it ends with a special meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington and his love, Sally. In the last year, Disney has begun offering character experiences with the pair and they have commanded hours-long lines at Walt Disney World.

"We did the 'Nightmare' Sing and Scream, which was very popular," Haile said. "At the very end, there is a scene where Jack and Sally are posed, and we had the scene end with the spotlight on the Walt Disney Theatre curtain and you could see their reflection right through it. Then the curtain rose, and they were in that pose and everyone went wild."


The same entertainment will return for 2014 Halloween on the High Seas, Haile said, but Disney Cruise Line staff is tinkering with the schedule to better suit passengers' needs, based on guest feedback. The most difficult task is on the three-night sailings on the Dream, where they add the holiday programming to an already jam-packed schedule.

"It was difficult for us because we haven't taken anything away from our typical cruise experience so we had to decide where do you sandwich these [Halloween events] in," she told me.

Also returning next year will be the longer, six-week period of Christmas celebrations.

"We're taking a cue from the [Disney] parks to transition earlier," Haile said. "We're rolling it [the Christmas programming and decor] out in early November."


The Very Merrytime Cruises feature King Triton's Tree Lighting Ceremony; Deck the Deck Holiday Party; family activities, such as making gingerbread houses and meeting Santa Claus and his elves; holiday storytellers; and a holiday edition of 'Til We Meet Again farewell party.

My extended family and I sailed on the Fantasy at the beginning of December and experienced most of these events. To see photos and read about our experiences, click here.



December 17, 2013

Epcot introduces new foods to celebrate the holidays at Walt Disney World


The holidays at this time of year mean a lot different things, but good food usually is at the top of most everyone's list. One park at Walt Disney World certainly is enhancing that aspect of the season this year.

Long known for its culinary diversity, Epcot has added yet another way to experience the food and beverages that are native to the 11 countries represented in its World Showcase. And new this year is a collection of edible items for the holidays.


Although the Walt Disney World theme park has served holiday dishes in the past, they weren't necessarily advertised as part of Holidays Around the World. For the 2013 season, guests are encouraged to use a Holiday Passport to find the treats they'd like to sample, much like they do at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and the new marketplaces at this year's Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

"We did want to make [food at Holidays Around the World] like the other Epcot festivals and elevate it a bit," said Randi Hoffert, an assistant marketing manager at Walt Disney World. "We are adding the food and beverage elements that are holiday-related along with all the other great entertainment offerings that we already have."

Although the concept is similar to Epcot's popular food festivals, the set-up is different. There are not separate kiosks for the holiday foods and beverages lining the promenade. Instead, the food mostly is served from existing locations, which are listed in the passport. Be sure to check the guide because they are not always easy to find.

Recently, my family and I went to Epcot to try the new holiday foods and beverages. Although we would have liked to eat our way around the World, the offerings are heavy on sweets so we limited what we would sample so we would not be suffering bellyaches when IllumiNations started. (Of course, each country still serves its regular fare, but we were focusing on the new holiday dishes.)

Here are some of our observations:


** Although we didn't try the Kaikouxiao (Happy Face Fried Cake) at China's Joy of Tea, it looked tasty and interesting -- like donut holes covered in sesame seeds. Joy of Tea is the stand across from the China pavilion and is easily accessible.


** The Stollen (Holiday Fruit Cake) in Germany was easily my favorite. It was more like a bread with sweet fruits instead of a traditional cake with nuts and cherries. Delicious! The serving size is generous with two large slices. My husband tried the Gluhwein (Hot Spiced Wine) in Germany, which he enjoyed, but he said it would have been even better when it wasn't a balmy 85 degrees outside. Both offerings are available in Sommerfest, which is the counter-service restaurant located in the back of the Germany pavilion.


** Italy is selling another version of fruit cake called Panettone at its Buona Festa kiosk. It's boxed and ready for gift-giving.



** At the Sugar and Spice Bake Shop in front of The American Adventure, guests will find a variety of traditional Christmas cookies, including these adorable gingerbread men, and hot chocolate, apple cider and sparkling wines.


** The new bakery in France, Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie, has added Buche de Noel au Chocolat (Chocolate Christmas Log) to its mouth-watering selection of sweets. The bakery is located in the back of the France pavilion, past the gift shop.


** The popcorn cart in Canada is selling Pecan Maple Bark in to-go packaging.


** Love sandwich waffles, which are all the rage right now? Don't miss the Savory Seasonal Waffles, which come in two varieties, at the Refreshment Port before you arrive in Canada. The Turkey Waflle (pictured above) is made from stuffing batter and is layered with turkey, gravy and cranberry relish. The Sweet Potato Casserole Waffle is cooked with sweet potato batter and topped with toasted pecans, marshmallows and caramel sauce.

"We've tried to make each country's holiday celebration come to life through the food and beverage, which is a big part of the way people celebrate," said Hoffert.

There's probably little argument from anyone about how important food can be for any holiday celebration. And, based on our recent Holidays Around the World food selections, it would seem as though Epcot possibly has started what could become a holiday tradition for many guests, as well.


December 19, 2013

Personalized children's book at Epcot celebrates holidays around the world



Epcot long has offered a global view of the holidays, and now the park offers something special that allows kids to read about holidays around the world, too.

kidsHeritage, Inc., the company that creates custom books for children and which has a retail site at Epcot, has a new offering for the holidays. "My Sleigh Ride Around the World" takes readers to different countries to learn about the local traditions for celebrating the holidays.

"It is a great fit with Epcot's beautiful Holidays Around the World celebration," author Deanna Bufo Novak told me recently. "Now, guests can take some of that magic home with them."


The holiday book can be personalized with a child's name, birth date, and photo, as well as the gift-giver's name, date of journey and country of departure. A personalized copy of "My Sleigh Ride Around the World" costs $39.95, or guests can choose the standard version for $18.95.


This book and the two others -- "My Heritage Book" and "ABC's Around the World" -- are available in the company's new location inside Heritage Manor Gifts at The American Adventure. Personalized copies are created on the premises and typically are ready in 30 minutes.

"I believe strongly in teaching children about heritage, other traditions, and world culture," Novak said. "This was a natural progression after my first two books, and with the holidays approaching, it was the perfect time."


Not only do readers learn about varied customs, but Novak also has included pages that allow each child to further personalize his or her book by writing about favorite holiday traditions, what he or she is thankful for, and gifts he or she would like to give. The author said she hopes these pages remind everyone what the holidays are all about.


Parents, grandparents and teachers are frequent customers, Novak said. "Teachers are personalizing the books for themselves to use in their classrooms," she said, adding that the holiday book is a multicultural exploration of the holidays and is, therefore, appropriate for a diverse student body.

"My Sleigh Ride Around the World" will be for sale as long as quantities last.

Novak often can be found working in Heritage Manor Gifts, especially Fridays and Saturdays, and is happy to autograph books when asked.

"I am incredibly thankful to get to do what I love so much, to be able to do it in Epcot, and to receive all of the wonderful feedback I do from guests," she said. "It really is a dream come true for me!"

To read more about "My Heritage Book" and "ABC's Around the World," please see my previous post.


December 21, 2013

Review: Disney's Saving Mr. Banks


For quite a while now, "Saving Mr. Banks" has generated both positive reviews and even Oscar buzz during the film's pre-release period. Now that the film has been released, general audiences can see what all the talk is about.

"Saving Mr. Banks," the heart-warming and often humorous story of how Walt Disney brought the novel "Mary Poppins" to life on the big screen, is now in movie theaters across the United States. There is so much to love about this film, but parents should give consideration to the PG-13 warning if they are planning to bring young children to see it.

Although we know Disney's adaptation of "Mary Poppins" eventually earns five Academy Awards for Disney Studios, what many of us probably didn't know is that it took 20 years to produce. "Saving Mr. Banks" gives us that back story. The film shows how Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, but even Hollywood's animation genius could not easily persuade P.L. Travers to hand over control of her beloved nanny. With her finances in poor shape, though, Travers finally agrees to consider selling the rights during a two-week trip to California.


Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star as Walt Disney and author P.L. Travers, respectively, and both performances are immensely convincing. Hanks plays the congenial yet savvy filmmaker, while Thompson is a persnickety woman who is unyielding in her opinions. Together, their interactions produce many memorable conversations and more than a few laughs.

How could anyone familiar with the Disney brand not chuckle when Travers first walks into her hotel room and sees that every surface is covered by plush cartoon characters and gift baskets. The over-the-top display has the opposite effect of what Disney intended. Still, in the end, the oversized Mickey Mouse stuffed animal becomes a touching symbol of her acceptance and their partnership.

But to get to that point, director John Lee Hancock has to explain why Travers has such a tight grip on Mary Poppins, who, Travers points out, is never called by just her first name. Hancock adeptly uses flashbacks throughout the movie to show Travers growing up in rural Australia. Her childhood, though filled with much love, was tainted by an alcoholic father (played by Colin Farrell) whose addiction cost him many jobs, the family's home in town, respect in the community and, ultimately, his life.


This theme is where the PG-13 rating comes into play. Most elementary-school-age children are going to have a hard time understanding the downward spiral of alcoholism, and "Saving Mr. Banks" does not shy away from showing the effects. Her father, Travers Goff, shows up drunk at a public ceremony and makes a spectacle of himself, embarrassing his family. He is reprimanded by his boss at the bank in front of his daughter. And, most disturbing -- though compelling -- is the scene where P.L. Travers (whose real name is Helen Lyndon Goff) sees her father's body right after he dies and his eyes are still open. That could be the stuff of nightmares for young children, especially if they don't understand the nuances of the story and the realistic effects used by the filmmakers to show death.

For adults, though, the context shows how the events of her childhood shaped P.L. Travers as an adult and influenced her writing. And that's what Disney finally understands will help him win over Travers -- proving that he will treat her memories with empathy in the film he wants to make. There is a real-life Mary Poppins, but it is not necessarily the nanny's reputation that Travers is concerned about. Instead, she wants her father remembered not just for his faults but also for his love of his family and her special bond with him.

"Saving Mr. Banks" really is a movie for older children and adults -- and as such, it's certainly an entertaining and memorable experience. Younger children, though, may delight in the film that is the subject of this movie, "Mary Poppins," which just has been re-released for its 50th anniversary.

DISCLAIMER: I viewed "Saving Mr. Banks" at a media screening before its official release. This did not affect my review; my opinions are my own.


December 26, 2013

3 fun Disney apps for your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch


Santa probably left a few iPhones or iPads under the Christmas trees for some good girls and boys, and the jolly old elf may have left a few iTunes gift cards, as well. If the lucky holiday gift recipients are Disney fans, there is a wealth of content available, from games to movies to storybooks and more. Here are three Disney iOS apps that are bound to be a hit with youngsters:


Frozen: Storybook Deluxe

The popular animated feature, "Frozen," has inspired two apps. "Frozen: Storybook Deluxe" is aimed at beginning readers, though it also has some features that will appeal to "Frozen" fans who are a little bit older. Those learning to read can choose from three options: read on their own, record their voices, and listen to the narration with text. Plus, there is a new feature that allows kids to flip their devices upside-down to hear the story told by dueling sisters Anna and Elsa.

Older kids who love "Frozen" can enjoy several interactive activities on the app, too. In the Snowglobe, kids can create snowflakes. This feature is intuitive in that it copies what the user draws and makes the snowflake symmetrical, like a real snowflake. The ice-crafting tools allow kids to draw freestyle or use a castle as a guide to create a crystal palace. There also are six puzzles that reveal scenes from the movie.

Frozen: Storybook Deluxe is available for iOS devices 5.0 or later, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for $6.99. It is optimized for iPhone 5.


Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up

This app, which was updated in time for the holidays, allows budding artists -- typically ages 6 to 8 -- to be animators in a Mickey Mouse short. The mash-up, called "No Service," follows Donald Duck and his pals Mickey and Minnie as he tries to find a pair of pants so he can be admitted to a restaurant.

His quests takes the user through 11 activities that use drawing to accomplish different objectives, such as hiding from Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck after he borrows their clothes and playing Mickey Mouse pinball. Artists will be able to use colors and even sign their drawings before their work becomes part of the short. At the end, kids can trace or draw Mickey freehand.

Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up is available for iOS devices 5.0 or later, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for $0.99 during the Disney Publishing sale.


Minnie Fashion Tour

Although this app was designed with kids ages 5 and younger in mind, it really appeals to any child interested in fashion or playing dress-up. Based on Disney Junior's hit animated series "Minnie's Bow Toons," the app has Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck taking outfits from their Bow-Tique on the road, and users can help customize looks for the runway in New Your City, Milan and Paris. Kids even can upload photos of their own materials and patterns to create unique designs for the two lovely ladies.

Users are able to include Minnie and Daisy's pets on the runway, as well as create a fashion show complete with lights and music. By correctly completing challenges, kids will unlock new accessories. Finally, fashionistas can make a photo postcard of their work to share with friends and family.

Minnie Fashion Tour is available for iOS devices 6.0 or later, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for $0.99 during the sale. It is optimized for iPhone 5 with the recent update.


December 28, 2013

A look back at what was new at Walt Disney World in 2013


In 2013, many new attractions contributed to our memorable moments at Walt Disney World. Here are some of the new additions at the resort this year, in no particular order. Enjoy a look back at what was new this year.


** Elements from "Frozen" movie. From a segment in the Celebrate the Magic show on Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom to the Elsa and Anna meet-and-greet at Epcot's Norway pavilion, the hit animated feature is well represented at Walt Disney World. Fans also can find an artifact collection inspired by the movie in the Stave Church at the Norway pavilion and story boards from the film at the Art of Animation at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


** Food marketplaces at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The theme park's Food and Wine Festival is so popular that Disney planners decided to expand the format to its other well-attended festival. It took five years for the new marketplaces to come to fruition, and they were well-received in their first year at Epcot. So well, in fact, they will be returning next year, I'm told.

** Food trucks. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival also inspired Walt Disney World to join the food truck trend. When the festival ended, the resort launched four food trucks that are based at Downtown Disney but can travel around the property. One of the trucks offers popular dishes from the Food and Wine Festival.


** Glow With The Show mouse ear hats. A little more than a year after these fun hats debuted at Disneyland, they made their appearance at Walt Disney World. The ears on the hats light up and can be synchronized with friends and some of the big nighttime productions, such as Wishes fireworks, Fantasmic! and The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Hats cost $25 apiece and will work at both Disney World and Disneyland.


** Scenes from the movie "Tangled." Fantasyland added a section dedicated to Rapunzel's story early this year. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer attractions, per se -- just cleverly themed bathrooms and a rest area with charging stations. There is a nice photo op by the tower, though.


** Another piece of New Fantasyland. Speaking of Disney Princesses, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (and their visiting guests) were given a new home at Princess Fairytale Hall in the courtyard behind Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. This well-themed area is housed in what used to be Snow White's Scary Adventures.


** For fans of "Up." Animal Kingdom launched a self-guided program for kids based on the Disney-Pixar movie called Wilderness Explorers. The free handbook directs participants to various locations throughout the park where they can earn "badges," much like Scouts do in real life.


** Kingdom Keepers. Fans of Ridley Pearson's "Kingdom Keepers" series of books now have the opportunity to solve their own quests at both Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. The self-directed scavenger hunts can be found in the 2013 and 2014 "Birnbaum Guides to Walt Disney World." These hunts are modeled after the one Pearson developed for Disney Youth Programs.


** A Pirate's Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas. This is yet another attraction that guests can do at their own pace. Located in Adventureland, the hunt for treasure includes many surprises built into the existing infrastructure of the Magic Kingdom.

** Limited Time Magic. The 2013 campaign brought a variety of special experiences to the parks. Among them were two one-day-only events at Disney's Hollywood Studios: May the Fourth Be With You, which celebrated Star Wars, and Unleash the Villains on Friday, Sept. 13. Both celebrations offered special fireworks -- Symphony in the Stars and Villiainy in the Sky.

** New watering holes. New lounges popped up throughout Walt Disney World, including the Lava Lounge at Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney and the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge at Hollywood Studios.


** Rare character appearances. In addition to the Long Lost Friends that appeared during Limited Time Magic events, Disney also brought out Jack Skellington and Sally from "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas." The pair commanded three-hour-long lines in 2012 and were only available at meet-and-greets this year at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and on select Disney Cruise Line sailings aboard the Disney Dream.


** Jingle Cruise. Magic Kingdom offered its first holiday overlay at an attraction since the Country Bear Christmas Special closed in 2005. The Jungle Cruise takes on a holiday theme.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the updates and changes at Walt Disney World in 2013. Please tell us in the comments what you especially enjoyed this year.


December 30, 2013

Celebrate New Year's Eve 2013 with your family and Disney outside its parks


Does the idea of celebrating New Year's Eve with your family at Walt Disney World fill you with excitement? Or is your joy coupled with a bit of trepidation because this is one of the most crowded weeks of the year at the resort? If you'd rather not face that many revelers in one place, there are other options for celebrating Disney-style in Florida.

DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney

DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney is once again hosting a family-friendly New Year's Eve party from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission includes unlimited use of the games on all five floors, two DJ dance parties, a New Year's Eve countdown and confetti drop at midnight. Plus, Chip 'n Dale, Buzz Lightyear and Wreck-It Ralph will be on hand for meet-and-greets.

In addition, tickets to the party include a dinner of grilled chicken sandwich, grilled veggie wrap sandwich, cheesesteak sandwich or barbecue pork sandwich; chips or a side salad; fruit cup or a cupcake; and a soda or bottled water.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $55 (including tax) online or by calling 407-934-7639. Space permitting, tickets also will be sold at DisneyQuest the day of the event for $65.

The rest of Downtown Disney will be celebrating year's end, as well. Individual restaurants are hosting their own bashes, and there will be live entertainment and DJ dance parties in the common areas of the West Side, Pleasure Island and Marketplace. The new Disney food trucks will be out, and "adult beverages" can be purchased as usual. West Side and Pleasure Island will be open until 2 a.m., while the Marketplace closes at 1 a.m.

Radio Disney's Noon Year's Eve

As in years past, Radio Disney hosts Noon Year's Eve celebrations in several U.S. cities 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 Tuesday. Families can participates in games, arts and crafts, live entertainment, educational displays, and hear the year's top songs from the Radio Disney 1380 Road Crew. Before noon, participants will be given noisemakers, New Year's hats and juice to toast the Noon Year.

This 2013 Radio Disney celebration is included with regular zoo admission, which is $24.95 for adults, $22.95 for seniors, and $19.95 for ages 3 to 11. Ages 2 and younger are free. Call 813-935-8552.

Celebration Town Center

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 guests can enjoy the flurries for free. Our family looks forward to our annual tradition of dinner and then experiencing Now Snowing Nightly. There are many fabulous restaurants to choose from in Celebration.

Some holiday activities there also still will be available, such as ice skating on an outdoor rink from 4 to 10 p.m. Prices are $10 for 30 minutes, which includes skate rental. Equipment is available to help those who are less than steady on the ice. Horse and carriage rides take guests throughout the town. Wagon rides are $5 per person and carriage rides are $25 for the first two passengers and $10 for each additional guest.

Tuning in to Times Square

Of course, there's always the tradition of watching "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2014" on Disney-owned ABC. This year's broadcast from Times Square in New York features performers Pitbull, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Joel, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Robin Thicke, The Fray and more.

Have a safe and Happy New Year!


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About December 2013

This page contains all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in December 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2013 is the previous archive.

January 2014 is the next archive.

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