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April 14, 2016

50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios serves up delicious dishes & entertainment

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Who doesn’t love comfort food from time to time? Guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can enjoy a traditional “home-cooked” meal and the environment of a much simpler family meal time – the 1950s – when they choose to dine at the 50's Prime Time Café inside the theme park at Walt Disney World.

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My family and I snagged a last-minute reservation for this table-service restaurant on Saturday, and we were not sorry afterward. It had been years since we’d eaten there, but the 50's Prime Time Café remains consistent -- each time has been an entertaining and delicious meal. I definitely will continue to recommend the 50's Prime Time Café to guests of all ages.

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Your dining experience begins when you check in at the desk inside the restaurant, which is located near the front of the park, just off the first block of Hollywood Boulevard. You are invited to wait in the Tune-In Lounge, which immediately immerses guests in that retro experience. Feel free to watch black-and-white clips from popular television shows circa 1955 on floor-model sets. Kitschy wallpaper, orange and teal pleather seats, multi-light floor lamps and bi-level end tables make you feel like you are in your grandmother’s house.

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The lounge actually serves the full restaurant menu, plus there are plenty of adult beverages at the bar and shakes to go. You won’t want to skip the house specialty – a peanut butter and jelly shake.

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When your table is ready, the host or hostess will take your party of “cousins” into one of many kitchens. You’ll be seated at a Formica table with views of built-in shelves and cabinets full of ‘50s knick-knacks, tea towels, vintage-looking curtains and more retro TV sets.

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Perhaps the most fun part this meal (besides eating) is that your server is not above gently scolding diners who do not mind their manners. Put your elbows on the table? You’ll be told to rethink that. Need to make a trip to the bathroom? Don’t think you’ll escape and return without being asked if you washed your hands – no matter how old you are! The server may also “help” stragglers finish their meals by using the “airplane technique.” Years ago, my father was cajoled into pantomiming the motions to the nursery rhyme, “The Little Teapot.” Talk about funny!

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But the real reason you’re there is to eat, right? Our family chose Mom’s Old-fashioned Pot Roast, Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken and Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie. My daughter had A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes, which included the pot roast, fried chicken and traditional meatloaf. Truly, none of us had a bad thing to say about any of our meals. The pot roast, which is served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, brown gravy, carrots, celery and onions, is my go-to meal and one that is always satisfying. Afterward, we indulged in traditional desserts of warm apply crisp a la mode and Dad’s Brownie sundae. Both were generous portions and definitely enough to share. To see the fill menu for the 50's Prime Time Café, see our AllEars.Net menu page. There is also a children’s menu.

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50's Prime Time Café is a popular restaurant, so I strongly suggest making reservations. We were able to make a same-day reservation because we were willing to eat a late dinner (at 9 p.m.) that overlapped with the Star Wars fireworks. Incidentally, when the fireworks started, my children stepped outside and had a decent view of the entire show. And, if you have a window seat, you might even see parts of the fireworks show from inside, too.



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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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July 15, 2014

Learn to draw Frozen's Elsa, Anna and Olaf at Walt Disney World

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For children -- and adults -- who love to create artwork, Walt Disney World offers several different venues where cast-member artists teach guests how to draw Disney characters. These experiences are free (with paid admission, where applicable) and usually don't require a long wait, which makes them a perfect activity in between FastPasses and show times.

"Frozen" fans will be happy to know that some of their favorite characters have been added to the choices at the Animation Academy inside The Magic of Disney Animation at Hollywood Studios. Guests now can learn to draw Elsa, Anna and Olaf. (Don't worry: If your budding artists is not going to be at the theme park any time soon, he or she still can learn the techniques from Disney character artist Brian James Fichtner in the videos below.)



Both of my children enjoy the drawing sessions, and recently they asked to join in the fun again. Drawing classes are offered every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour. The classroom inside the Magic of Disney Animation is quite large -- everyone in our queue got a seat on the first try -- and the setup is fun, with each student sitting on a stool at a slanted drawing board, just like a "real" artist.

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We found out that, at the Animation Academy, the character subjects are selected based on guests' requests. However, if a character already has been drawn that day, the cast-member artist likely will opt for a different member of the Disney family to keep things interesting for repeat visitors. (This is different from Animation Academy inside Disney Quest at Downtown Disney, where the classes take place on the hour and there is a posted schedule of which characters will be the artists' subjects.)

The artists guide guests through the process of drawing a character, line by line. And the pencils they provide purposely do not have erasers. As the cast member explains, they want guests to understand these drawings are sketches. The pencil strokes are done lightly until the end, when the guests then go over their finished products with bolder markings.

Speaking of finished products, each guest leaves the Animation Academy with a pretty cool souvenir. Guests are invited to autograph their work at the end of each session, but they also could visit the subject of their sketch for a character signature if that character is in the park.

If you missed the class for the character you really wanted to be able to draw on your own, Walt Disney World sells books that teach visitors how to create Mickey Mouse and his pals from scratch.



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July 8, 2014

Is the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package at Disney's Hollywood Studios a good value?

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Less than two weeks ago, Walt Disney World announced its new "Frozen Summer Fun -- Live at Disney's Hollywood Studios" event, and those of us with "Frozen" fans in our families began planning our visits to the theme park so we could see and do all the movie-themed activities.

And then, a few days later, the resort released the news that a Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package would be available. If you're like me, you started thinking about whether you could justify the cost because being able to skip the almost-certain long lines would make your day much more enjoyable. Here are some things you may want to consider.

Frozen Summer Fun runs through Sept. 1, and the premium package is available each day (unless it sells out). The cost is $59 for adults and $34 for children ages 3 to 9; both prices include taxes. So, for my family with children who are 9 and 11 years old, that would be $211. That's on top of park admission prices. Is it worth it?

The premium package includes refreshments and reserved viewing for Anna & Elsa's Royal Welcome procession in the morning, reserved seating at one afternoon showing of For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, and a nighttime dessert party in a reserved area for viewing of the Frozen fireworks.

Know that you *can* see the procession, the show and the fireworks without purchasing the package, if you don't mind waiting in lines or on the curb of Hollywood Boulevard. This package is similar to the one offered during Star Wars Weekends. My family did not purchase that premium package, and we found ourselves in thick crowds who all want to see the same things. Remember: Hollywood Boulevard does not have the same capacity for waiting guests as Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom -- and even that currently is being revamped to accommodate more visitors.

So, you are paying to be able to skip the crowds in the hot Florida sun and also to have more time for other entertainment in Hollywood Studios. But the food and beverages that come with the Frozen Summer Fun premium package -- especially the dessert party -- are actually a step above what they serve at comparable hard-ticket events and shouldn't be discounted as part of the value of the package.

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In the morning before the processional, guests will be offered Mickey premium ice cream bars, frozen lemonade cups, frozen strawberry lemonade cups, and Dasani bottled water, Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite. If you figure one treat and one bottle per person, that adds up. At snack carts in the park, the Mickey bars are $4 and the frozen lemonade cups each are $3.75. Bottled drinks are about $2.50 each. So, for my family of four, that would be about $25 plus tax. But reports so far indicate that package participants are not limited to one of each item, so if you get a bottle of water to take with you afterward, you are saving more money, assuming you would have purchased the drink anyway. For those playing along, that would be another $10 or so for my family.

Many folks will be happy to know that alcoholic drinks are included in the Frozen Summer Fun dessert party. For comparison: Epcot's IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party includes two sparkling wines and a smaller assortment of desserts and costs $49 for adults and $29 for children ages 3 to 9. I think this example really illustrates the value in the Frozen offerings. The Epcot experience is only slightly less expensive and it doesn't offer as many selections at the dessert party or include the reserved seating and treats at the morning parade or afternoon show.

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So, what do you get at the Frozen dessert party? Adults can quench their thirst with one of these three alcoholic beverages: Iced Summer, a combination of rum, blue curaçao liqueur, pineapple juice and a splash of Sprite; Iced Coffee, a mixture of Baileys, Kahlua and coffee; or Warm Winter Grog, which contains citrus vodka, lemonade and ginger beer. In addition, sodas, bottled water and coffee or tea are available. Let's say that each adult in the family has two alcoholic drinks, and the average price of a cocktail or specialty coffee is about $10. That could be a savings of $40.

If your kids are like mine, they always ask for the brightly-colored -- and expensive -- drinks when we're visiting the theme parks. That desire will be satisfied at the Frozen dessert party with the choice of two virgin specialty drinks: Troll Juice, lemonade and blueberry Monin syrup; and Olaf's Summer Sunset, passion fruit, orange and guava juice, and peach Monin syrup. The latter sounds a lot like the POG juice that 'Ohana is so well-known for! These types of drinks typically cost $5-$6, so if my children try each drink, that would have cost at least $20.

And we haven't even discussed the sweets yet. The Frozen dessert party offers a selection of wonderfully-themed goodies: large Anna and Elsa cupcakes; Olaf cake pops; Anna yogurt push-pops; and a chocolate fondue station with fruit, marshmallows and cake. In addition, there are other dessert-party staples, such as Key lime tarts, brownie bites, lemon icebox cookies, Rice Krispie treats, strawberry shortcake and cookies. Plus, items from the Walt Disney World ice cream carts are available, including the Mickey bars, Mickey ice cream sandwich, chocolate-covered banana, strawberry bar and orange bar. It's difficult to put a price on this, but if I estimate two desserts per person at about $5 each, we would have spent $40 on sweets.

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So, based on my estimates, if my family of four had purchased the food and beverages included in the premium package individually at Hollywood Studios, we would have spent about $135. That means we are paying $76 for the reserved seating and viewing for four people at three Frozen events. To some, that may seem expensive, especially if they would not ordinarily spend that much on snacks and drinks in one day at a theme park. Others may find that a bargain for peace of mind and some breathing room at what are sure to be very popular events. We'd love to hear what you think.

Tell us in the comments and share a review HERE~

To book the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package, you must call 407-939-1939. It cannot be booked online at this time.

Special thanks to MouseSteps.com for use of the photographs.



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May 20, 2014

Disney's Hollywood Studios brings Symphony in the Stars fireworks to Star Wars Weekends

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In a galaxy not so far away " Star Wars is being re-imagined and celebrated as only The Walt Disney Co. can do.

Although my family enjoys visiting Star Wars Weekends each year at Disney's Hollywood Studios, this year, we were really excited about seeing the fireworks show, Symphony in the Stars, which has replaced the HyperSpace Hoopla as each day's finale. Symphony in the Stars actually debuted in 2010 at the theme park's Last Tour to Endor special event. Since then, an abridged version has been shown as the entertainment at other one-offs, such as the Star Tours Galactic Party in 2011 and on May the Fourth in 2013, but it has not been shown regularly as it will be this year.

The 2014 version of Symphony in the Stars begins with a short pre-show led by James Arnold Taylor, voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in "The Clone Wars" and the celebrity host of Star Wars Weekends. He pays tribute to many of the Star Wars fans in the park that day with a slide show of photographs of guests interacting with characters. (To be considered for your 15 seconds of fame, tag the Star Wars Weekends photos you post on social media with #swwfinale.)

Next, Taylor introduces popular characters from both the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, giving guests a final look at the some of their favorites. For those who are close to the stage in front of Sorcerer Mickey's hat, it's an excellent opportunity to get multiple characters in one photo.

Finally, it's time for the fireworks, which take place above the iconic symbol. Unlike at Epcot or the Magic Kingdom, fireworks are not presented regularly in this central location at Hollywood Studios. Even the casual observer will notice the differences in sight lines and crowd control when guests fill up Hollywood Boulevard, a noticeably smaller space than, say, Main Street U.S.A. or the promenade around Epcot's World Showcase. Plus, at just over seven minutes, Symphony in the Stars is shorter than Wishes or IllumiNations.

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Still, it's difficult not to get excited when the familiar sounds of John Williams' original music fill the air. Show Director Mark Renfrow recently was quoted on the official Disney Insider blog about his role in creating Symphony in the Stars:

"This music touches people. Everybody knows it, and when you hear it you suddenly go to a place. You go to the movies, and you remember these scenes, but you also remember how it felt when you first saw 'Star Wars.' Somehow, this particular show with this particular score feels like a reunion to me. I think that the audience will feel reunited and reconnected with this music - most shows are not like that, you're just watching the show. In this show, you're connected to it. And then because Star Wars takes place in space, you're already looking up into the sky. When the music comes to life in fireworks, you just can't help but visualize some of the things you've seen from the movies. You're immediately connected - and filled with wows."

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To be sure, there is something magical about seeing such a different kind of fireworks show in an unusual location at Walt Disney World. Guests can see Symphony in the Stars during the remaining Star Wars Weekends: May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 6-8 and June 13-15.

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Viewing tips:

** My family and I underestimated how crowded Hollywood Boulevard would be. We arrived 30 minutes before the start of the pre-show, and the street and curbs were already filled from the stage to past the intersection with Sunset Boulevard. If taking photos of the characters is important to you, arrive even earlier and claim your spot up front. Otherwise, know that it might be difficult to see the pre-show, even on the larger screen, but viewing the fireworks will be fine anywhere on the street.

** Glow With The Show mouse ear hats work with this show, though we didn't see very many on the night we viewed the fireworks.

** Check the Times Guide when planning your day because some of the attractions close early for the fireworks.

** Be prepared to sit in traffic as you and your fellow fireworks fans leave Hollywood Studios at the same time. Star Wars Weekends and the fireworks are very popular, so there will be a mass exodus. Just don't count on the The Force to help you if decide to skip the bathroom break on the way out!



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May 15, 2014

What you need to know about 2014 Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World

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The galaxy has expanded with new offerings this year for Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World. Advance planning definitely is key to experiencing all that Disney's Hollywood Studios has to offer from May 16 to June 15. So, if you're prepared to master The Force, read my tips below and start scheduling your day to oppose the forces of the Dark Side. Or join Luke's father. Your choice, of course.

1. I can't say this enough: Get to Disney's Hollywood Studios before it officially opens at 8 a.m. if you want to sign up for children's events or get FastPasses for celebrity encounters. The Jedi Training Academy and Padawan Mind Challenge require registration, which is available immediately after the rope drop and are located in front of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Theater and ABC Sound Stage, respectively. Both kid events typically are full and have waiting lists by mid-morning. The system for distributing FastPasses for celebrity autographs begins outside the main gates to the right where guests must line up. You may not save a place in line for other party members, and distribution may begin before the park opens. (For more details about the celebrity meet-and-greets, see the AllEars.Net resource page.)

2. Because FastPasses for many attractions can be booked in advance online at My Disney Experience, be sure to schedule times for the Star Tours ride, and any Star Wars-themed stage shows featuring the celebrity guests, such as "Behind the Force," that interest you. For the first time in the event's history, Mark Hamill, who everyone here on Earth and in all the universes far, far away knows played Luke Skywalker in the original film trilogy, will be the celebrity guest from June 6 to 8. Guests staying at Disney resorts can book these FastPasses up to 60 days in advance, while other guests can book at 30 days out from their visit. Also, if you plan to have a table-service meal, make those reservations, too, because the theme park will be as busy as a Mos Eisley cantina during Star Wars Weekends. Resort guests can book dining reservations 190 days from the day they check in, and all other guests can book at 180 days prior to their visit.

3. Several special Star Wars-themed dining events were introduced this year. The Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast! at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant features favorite characters from the Dark Side, while Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine offers interactions with Disney characters dressed as Star Wars characters during a buffet dinner. The Feel the Force Premium Package includes reserved premium seats for the celebrity motorcade with snacks and drinks and a reserved viewing area and dessert during the fireworks. Most of these events sold out quickly, but you can always call 407-WDW-DINE to check for cancellations. (They do not show up on My Disney Experience.)

4. Don't leave Hollywood Studios early! The evening entertainment has changed from the popular Hyperspace Hoopla stage show to the new Symphony in the Stars fireworks. This state-of-the-art evening finale is expected to feature favorite Star Wars characters, a frenzy of fireworks and Glow with the Show elements at 9:30 p.m.

5. If you're a Florida resident, you can take advantage of the 3-day Discover Disney Ticket, which costs $129 and gives you admission to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks for three separate days. It's good through June 6, which means you could choose to use it at the first three Star Wars Weekends or the first day of the fourth weekend. There is also a four-day option for $149. If you don't have a seasonal or annual pass, this is a great alternative because the regular price of one day's admission is almost $100 for an adult.

If the worst-case scenario comes to pass and you forgot to pre-book FastPasses, you couldn't secure reservations to Star Wars character meals and you ran into some serious delays on the planet Mustafar, there still are plenty of ways to make the day special for the Star Wars fans in your family. First, when you arrive at the park, go directly to Guest Relations and see if there are any openings for the meals you're interested in. While you're waiting in line there, use the My Disney Experience app on your smartphone to book any available FassPasses for attractions, including Star Tours. Then, stake out a place to see the Celebrity Motorcade at 11 a.m. There are so many Star Wars characters in one place that you can't help but feel immersed in the story universe. Afterward, be sure to stop by Darth's Mall for event merchandise and special interactive activities, including character meet-and-greets with Luke, Princess Leia, R2D2 and C-3PO. You will find other Star Wars character locations throughout the park, too. Treat your child to a Star Wars themed lunch pack or an amazing dessert at the counter-service locations. Finally, wrap up your day with the new fireworks show. If you're willing to brave the lines, The Force surely will be with you at Star Wars Weekends.



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November 16, 2013

What to know before you go to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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Every year about this time, folks start to climb up into their attics to drag out boxes of outdoor holiday lights and inflatable decorations. That's all fine and good, of course, but if you and your family are looking for a really spectacular holiday light display, there's really only one show in town.

What began as one Arkansas family's Christmas lights is now a 5 million-light display at Disney's Hollywood Studios that guests to Walt Disney World won't want to miss during the holiday season. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a breathtaking display that covers the Streets of America and includes spinning carousels, angels, toy soldiers, and Santa and his reindeer. You might even see a few hidden Mickeys, too.

Unlike a stroll through your neighborhood, though, there are a few things you might want to know before you go:

** 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 last year, and it's back again as a fun photo op. The backdrop for meeting Goofy is, of course, rows and rows of holiday lights, lighted Christmas trees and even toys covered in lights.

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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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** The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights can get claustrophobically crowded on weekends, so if you have young children, be prepared to keep a close eye on them. Even seasoned park-goers may be surprised how easy it is to get separated in these crowds.

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** Light-up necklaces and other accessories are popular at this experience. New this year, though, are the Glow With The Show ear hats, whose colors are synched with the dancing lights for the first time. The hats and other accessories are sold at carts on the Streets of America, 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.

** 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.

** The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights begin 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. It stays in place through Jan. 5 and is included in regular theme-park admission.



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October 21, 2013

Glow With The Show ear hats debut at Magic Kindom

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Less than a week ago, Glow With The Show ear hats debuted at Walt Disney World during a Fantasmic performance. On Saturday, the hats began working with the Celebrate the Magic castle projection show and the Wishes fireworks presentation at the Magic Kingdom, and my children and I were in the thick of the crowds on Main Street, U.S.A., to witness the first displays.

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Our experience with the new light-up mouse-ear hats began earlier in the day when I purchased one for each of my children at The Emporium. The hats are available in one design (for now, at least) -- a multicolored pattern of Mickey Mouse faces on the cap and two "ears" that illuminate. Each Glow With the Show hat costs $25.

This seemed a bit pricey to me at first. But when I thought about buying a child a basic mouse-ear hat with an embroidered name and also purchasing a light-up toy for the night-time parade and activities, I realized I easily would exceed that amount. And I'm sure I'm not the only parent who would love to have one less purchase per child to keep track of at a theme park. (For the record: You can replace the AAA batteries yourself when necessary.)

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The hats, which debuted a little more than a year ago at Disneyland, can work independently, in cooperation with other hats worn by your group, and with certain night-time shows. Glow With The Show ears will light up individually when turned on. If you bump them with another hat and stay near the guest wearing that hat, the patterns of lights will appear synchronized. This is a fun discovery for wearers.

However, the real "oohing" and "aching" comes when you see the ears synched with a large-scale show, such as Celebrate the Magic. We stood in the hub near Cinderella Castle for our first viewing, and we had a decent view of the show and enough Glow With The Show ears in front of us to see the new effects. Of course, the farther back on Main Street you stand, the more ears you're likely to see.

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You'll quickly notice the ears of each hat match colors in the show and flash to the beat of some of the songs. One of our favorite effects was during the "Tangled" recreation in Celebrate the Magic when the lanterns appear to glow and float into the air and the ear hats matched the lanterns. Also visually pleasing was when the ears glowed red while the castle was bathed in blue with the projected white stars, mimicking Sorcerer Mickey's hat during Wishes. Take a look at some of the scenes from Celebrate the Magic in the video below:

Currently, Glow With The Show ears are synchronized with Celebrate the Magic and Wishes at Magic Kingdom (and the Halloween versions at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party on Oct. 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29, 31 and Nov. 1) and Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studies. Beginning Nov. 8, the hats will work with The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios and Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season at Magic Kingdom.

Glow With The Show ears can be purchased at The Emporium, The Chapeau and merchandise carts at Magic Kingdom and at Beverly Sunset, Once Upon A Time, Mickeys of Hollywood, Head to Toe and merchandise carts at Hollywood Studios. Hats purchased at any Disney park -- including Disneyland -- will work at all Disney World parks that are part of the program.

May 21, 2013

Tips for kids at Disney World's Star Wars Weekends

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Disney fans, who also are Star Wars fans, know that for four weekends in May and June, Disney's Hollywood Studios turns into a mecca for all things related to that galaxy far, far away. As the event has grown, so have the number of things that are geared toward kids.

My children, who are ages 8 and 10, now enjoy the excitement of the special event weekends, but there was one year when my son joined the ranks of the intensely fascinated. That was the year his night-owl parents took him to the theme park before it opened in a bid to get Jake Lloyd's autograph. (You can read about our experience here.)

This year, we had a more casual approach to our arrival time because we weren't seeking an autograph. That was a mistake, though. The Force is not with families who do not line up outside the turnstiles at least an hour before park opening.

The two kid-centric events -- Jedi Training Academy and Padawan Mind Challenge -- require registration, which is available immediately after the rope drop in front of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Theater and ABC Sound Stage, respectively. On Saturday, all 19 sessions of the training academy and two trivia games were filled by mid-morning and the wait list halted at 70 hopeful kids, a cast member told me. So, my top tip for families who have children eager to take part in the Star Wars activities is to plan for an early arrival.

Here are our favorite must-dos for families who want to maximize their Star Wars fun:

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1. Legends of the Force Motorcade and Celebrity Welcome -- Even if you're not a Star Wars fan, it's difficult not to get excited when you see this parade kick off. The familiar music and array of elaborately costumed characters create excitement, for sure. Plus, the celebrities and event hosts ride in a motorcade that culminates in a ceremony on the main event stage in front of the Sorcerer Hat. Guests wanting a curbside seat line up for this parade at least an hour ahead of time. We lucked into a spot this year about a half hour before the parade's start that wasn't half bad. Areas are blocked off near the right side of the stage for the parents of kids who are chosen for the parade, but there are spots behind them that line the front of the stage. We could not see the parade from that point, but half of the characters walked past us on their way to the stage, high-fiving my kids, and then we had a decent view of the ceremony on stage. It worked for us.

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2. Jedi Training Academy -- Kids ages 4 to 12 learn how to wield a light saber from master Jedi instructors on an outdoor stage next to Star Tours. Once they've mastered the basics, they take a turn battling someone from The Dark Side. Sign-up is required for this event, but the good news is that it is a permanent feature at Hollywood Studios. If you miss it during Star Wars Weekends, the event is available year round. Robes similar to the ones the kids don for the academy can be purchased in nearby Tatooine Traders for about $50, and there is a build-your-own light saber station, as well.

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3. Padawan Mind Challenge -- In this trivia contest, kids ages 4 to 11 use their mental forces to keep up with two galactic hosts on the main event stage in front of the Sorcerer Hat. Guest C3PO provides some laughs and encourages the kids as they use their light sabers to indicate answers. Registration is required for this event, which has two afternoon sessions.

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4. Merchandise and character photos -- Take time to visit Darth's Mall, the huge merchandise tent that is set up back behind Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Here you'll find limited edition Star Wars items; Star Wars Weekends 2013 merchandise; photo opportunities with Luke, Leia, R2D2, C3PO, and the Rancor; and the "cast yourself in Carbonite" experience that was inspired by a scene from "The Empire Strikes Back." My daughter loved being able to meet Leia and R2D2, who played along when she gave him her princess crown, and my son added to his collection a special Jedi Mickey plush that marks the 30th anniversary of "Return of the Jedi." There also are many character meet-and-greets with those from The Alliance, The Empire and Mickey and pals seen dressed in Star Wars costumes throughout the park.

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5. HyperSpace Hoopla! -- End the day by viewing this hilarious dance competition in which Star Wars characters try to outdo each other in a dance-off set to popular music hits. This event has become so popular over that years that guests line up in front of the main stage well beforehand. (See the AllEars.Net Hyperspace Hoopla! video.) Disney also broadcasts the Hoopla on the large adjacent screen at American Idol Experience, and folks sprawl out on the cement to watch. My son and I were among them, and it was a pleasant way to see the show without being sandwiched in between all the other guests.

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Let me know your tips for kids at Star Wars Weekends, by leaving a comment below.


April 2, 2013

It's curtains for Disney Channel Rocks! at Disney's Hollywood Studios after April 6

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Like Disney Channel viewers around the globe, my elementary-school-age children were die-hard "High School Musical" fans. They eagerly anticipated each of the sequels and the accompanying soundtracks. I'm pretty sure we single-handedly supported the merchandising branch of the franchise with all the clothing, costumes, Barbie-type dolls and dance mats that littered our play room.

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Unlike many other "High School Musical" fans, though, my children also are fortunate enough to live in Orlando and have annual passes to Walt Disney World, where they regularly could see a live musical production based on each of the movies at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Since 2007, the theme park has offered guests the opportunity to see their favorite "High School Musical" songs performed -- and even participate in the show by learning dance steps from the professionals.

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The first moving stage show was High School Musical Pep Rally (which ran January - September 2007). It was followed by High School Musical 2: School's Out (September 2007 - September 2008), High School Musical 3: Senior Year (October 2008 - September 2010) and, finally, Disney Channel Rocks! (October 2010 - April 2013). Through each production, the anthem "We're All in This Together" remained a constant, and I'm sure, brought back memories for fans.

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Disney World recently announced that the current show, Disney Channel Rocks!, will have its swan song on April 6. Although I certainly can understand the decision -- much of the material is dated, even with the addition of "Camp Rock 2" songs in the fourth version of the production -- I have to admit I also was a little sad to hear the news.

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I remember when seeing the pep rallies that traveled down Hollywood Boulevard and stopped in front of Mickey's Sorcerer Hat was a must-do each time we visited Hollywood Studios. My children had their favorite viewing spot and loved to participate. And, clearly, they were not alone. But as their interests and ages have changed, they have moved on, and I suspect that's the same for many "High School Musical" fans.

So, what's next for Hollywood Studios? Disney World hasn't announced what entertainment, if anything, will take the place of Disney Channel Rocks! It would seem that Disney's Channel's "Shake It Up" would be a natural fit with its story of a televised dance show, if theme-park officials want to keep the elements of music and dance that appeal to young Disney fans.

In the meantime, take a look back at each of the four "High School Musical" pep rallies in the videos below.

High School Musical Pep Rally (2007):

High School Musical 2: School's Out (2007):


High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2010):

Disney Channel Rocks! (2010):

January 8, 2013

The many great reasons to visit Disney World in January

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In Orbitz's annual travel index, Orlando has been named as one of the "Sure Bets for Great Deals in 2013." This designation comes in large part due to the expansion of New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom and great deals year-round at the Disney World hotels. So, in light of that news, let's take a look at why visiting Walt Disney World in January makes sense.

** As Orbitz mentioned and many theme-park fans know, some of the best deals can be found for Walt Disney Resort vacations because travel typically slows after the holidays. With the exception of New Year's, marathon and Martin Luther King Day weekends, the room rates are considered value prices. Pair that with an incentive deal, and a trip to Disney World may be within your budget. Disney recently announced an up to 30% resort discount for select dates, February - June.

** Because the kids have gone back to school, and it's not yet time for the staggered spring breaks, the crowds tend to be the lightest of the year in January. Sure, the parks may have shorter hours, but if your wait times are significantly reduced and you're able to experience all the attractions, that leaves you more time to explore the nightlife at Disney World outside the parks. Parents may want to book the kids club and have a night out to themselves.

** If your family believes there can never be too much Christmas magic, you may be in luck. Most holiday performances continue into the new year -- some for days and some for the week. And the Christmas decorations usually stay up through marathon weekend.

** Speaking of runners, the Walt Disney World Marathon -- a fun and prestigious race -- takes place in Orlando in January. But even if you are not a serious runner, that weekend can be a fun experience participating in shorter races, such as the family 5K, which can be walked. There are even races for kids, which means the whole family can start a new year of health and fitness together. With marathon weekend upon us (Jan. 12-14), the events are sold out for this year, but families still can have fun cheering on the runners.

** This week notwithstanding, Orlando's weather typically is cooler in January, lending itself to hot chocolate in the parks or beside a hotel's roaring fire while wearing those jeans and long sleeves. It's a nice change from the sweltering summer experience. Visitors also might find the campfires for roasting marshmallows at their deluxe hotels more palatable.

First-time visitors or guests who want to see specific attractions should be aware that because January is a slow period at Disney World, many refurbishments are scheduled then. Be sure to check the AllEars.Net list of closures if this is a concern for you. Ultimately, though, the tradeoff of missing a few attractions for better prices, fewer visitors and cooler weather may just be worth it.

January 1, 2013

Where to find healthy, tasty salads at Walt Disney World

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It's January 1 and time for all those New Year's resolutions to kick in. For many of us, among our annual promises is one to eat healthier and/or lose weight.

Admittedly, this can be tough when you're visiting Walt Disney World. And, if this is your once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it's understandable that the calorie content of your meals and snacks is not your top priority. For some, though, eating well continues on vacation. It's always a bonus to get home and find you haven't gained weight, right?

Because I live in Orlando and am fortunate to visit The Most Magical Place on Earth frequently, I want to find foods that fit my dietary needs without feeling like I am being deprived while visiting a theme park with my family. For me, this means mostly quick-service foods with protein and a lot of vegetables, limiting the carbs and sugar. More often than not, I end up eating salads.

To that end, here are some of my favorite salads in the Disney parks that are available at counter-service restaurants (for the most part), are comparatively inexpensive, and are more interesting than a basic garden salad.

Magic Kingdom

In the summer of 2011, Columbia Harbor House in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom added several healthy dishes to a menu that was heavy on fried foods. That's when the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad was introduced to the menu, replacing the BLT salad.

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Broccoli Peppercorn Salad

It contains mixed greens, garden vegetables (including peas, corn and carrots), chicken, broccoli, bacon and Parmesian tossed with a creamy Peppercorn dressing." What the Disney description doesn't tell you is that the grilled chicken also is served warm on the salad, and there is a generous amount of protein for the $8.19 price. I really love this salad and usually have it when I'm at Magic Kingdom. A bonus: Columbia Harbour House is located close to New Fantasyland.

If I am looking for tasty salad at a sit-down restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, I choose the Chicken Strawberry Salad at The Plaza restaurant. It contains fresh garden greens, grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, Gorgonzola cheese and is tossed in a white Zinfandel vinaigrette dressing for $14.99. It's also filling, which is key when you're limiting what you eat.

Animal Kingdom

For many, a trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom is not complete without a meal at Flame Tree BBQ. The counter-service restaurant not only serves up delicious barbecue favorites, but it also has unique outdoor dining with terraces that overlook fountains, foliage and even Expedition Everest. (Many years ago, an open-air boat also shuttled Disney characters around the lake, and diners on the lowest terraces could exchange waves while dining. We miss that!)

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Barbecued Chicken Salad

My longtime favorite here is, you guessed it, the Barbecued Chicken Salad for $7.79. However, the ingredients were changed last summer, and it doesn't have quite the same appeal for my taste. The thin slices of chicken still are coated with the restaurant's signature spice rub, but garbanzo and pinto beans have been added, as well as tortilla strips, to the salad. I liked the previous version better, but this still is a good option for healthy dining, in my opinion, and others might find it more tasty than I do.

Epcot

Talk about making the tough choices! Forgoing all the great food at Epcot is not my favorite thing to do, but I have found a salad that makes healthy eating not quite as painful. Sunshine Seasons in Future World's The Land serves a Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad with honey sherry dressing for $7.89. I don't care for beets, so I always ask if I may substitute grilled chicken, and my request has been honored. (Sometimes there is a charge for the additional protein, though some servers consider it an even trade.) This salad also contains a generous portion of nuts, which helps make it satisfying.

Hollywood Studios

The Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios is known for its famous Cobb Salad, but I found this Disney theme park to be the most difficult in which to find a good salad at a counter-service restaurant. After experimenting with several salads -- including the Asian Salad (which has since been replaced) at ABC Commissary and the Fairfax Salad at Fairfax Fare -- I finally hit the jackpot at Backlot Express.

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Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad

This restaurant, located near the Jedi Training Academy and Star Tours, now offers two interesting salads, though only one has protein included. The Southwest Salad with Chicken includes mixed greens, crisp corn tortilla, black bean relish and cilantro vinaigrette with hefty chicken strips for $8.49. The Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad offers chopped romaine, red onion, tomato, green peas and Zinfandel vinaigrette for $6.49. I prefer the Cantaloupe and Cucumber Salad, but it definitely is not as filling without some protein.

If you have a favorite salad, please tell us about it in the comments. We'd also love to hear your tips for eating healthy when you're visiting Walt Disney World.


November 29, 2012

Peek inside The Legend of Jack Sparrow before it officially opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios

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The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, a new attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios, is undergoing a soft opening ahead of its grand opening on Dec. 6. My family and I were able to cast off and experience the new attraction this past weekend and get a glimpse of Disney's beloved and rum-loving pirate.

Our wait for the show was about 30 minutes in a queue outside the soundstage that formerly was home to the Journey into Narnia attraction. This is not an interactive queue, like so many recent additions at Walt Disney World, so be prepared with something for the young kids to do to pass the time -- electronic games, coloring books or small toys usually will do the trick.

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Because guests are admitted to the attraction in large groups, you'll want to keep your party together. There really is no reason to rush inside because you can see well enough from most spots. You first will enter a small room where a talking skull mounted high on the wall invites guests to join a pirate adventure.

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Then, you'll walk into the main room, which is dominated by the centerpiece that is Captain Jack Sparrow's ship, the Black Pearl. The backdrop contains large screens that will feature most of the action in this theatrical production. The scene also is fully developed with three-dimensional pirate vignettes along the walls.

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I wondered if we would be able to view actual props from "The Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, but so far there is no sign of that. The attraction does take guests through the four films of the popular franchise while they watch battles and key actions play out in front of them. And one lucky child is invited to participate in the show.

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Perhaps the most surprising element in the eight-minute show is when Sparrow appears -- the high-definition projections make it hard to believe it's not an actor interacting with the audience. It really is that good.

Parents with young children should be aware that the theater does get quite dark and the action can be loud and scary, so it may not be appropriate for all ages. If your child does like Disney's pirate franchise, The Legend of Jack Sparrow offers a taste of the swashbuckling life at a theme park that previously did not have one.

To see a video of the attraction and more photos, click here.

August 23, 2012

What families need to know about free Wi-Fi at Disney World's Magic Kingdom

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Finally! Walt Disney World has responded to the requests of so many guests who, like me, are tethered to their electronic devices. Earlier this month, free Wi-Fi became available at the Magic Kingdom.

For those of us who rely on Internet service with our smart phones and tablets, this could mean a boost in the ability to upload photos, videos and other dense data. Who doesn't want to share their memories in the making while they're visiting the Mouse? It's hard to resist in this era of constant status updates and tweets.

Be aware, though, that the new Disney Wi-Fi is not a guarantee of better connectivity because the bandwidth that's available depends on the number of users in your corner of the theme park. It does seem to help, though. On a recent visit to Storybook Circus, my family found the upload speeds to be slow in the crowded Casey Jr. area. On past visits, though, we often couldn't connect at all with our cellular service until we walked away from the splash pad and closer to the Dumbo The Flying Elephant attraction.

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For my family, perhaps the best thing about the free Wi-Fi is that it allows my husband and I to better keep in touch with our kids by texting them on their iPods, which need Wi-Fi for texting. We don't think they need smart phones at their ages, but they are getting old enough to venture out from us in small ways, such as going to a nearby bathroom or kiosk, and it's comforting to have a way to contact them. (I realize many parents would not allow their children out of their sight at the busy Disney theme park, but my children have grown up there and know the lay of the land.)

Texting doesn't take a lot of bandwidth, of course, so its functionality is more reliable than than that of uploading photos or video chatting, for example. Being able to use the free Wi-Fi at the Magic Kingdom gives our family another communication tool and my husband and I some peace of mind.

Walt Disney World has said it expects to offer free Wi-Fi at Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney by early 2013. All Disney World hotels have been upgraded to offer the complimentary Internet service.

July 17, 2012

Tips for helping your kids start pin trading at Disney World

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My son and daughter have been trading pins at Walt Disney World for almost four years now and the excitement of it hasn't dulled. As a parent, I think it's a fun hobby for them, and it adds a bit of excitement to our trips into the theme parks. I'd like to share a few tips we've learned along the way, in case pin-trading is something you're considering.

First, be aware that Disney does have some basic rules for pin trading:

** Teach your child to ask to view a cast member's pins. Do not grab at lanyards.
** Pins must be metal and represent a Disney event, character, location or icon, and be in good condition.
** There is a limit of two trades per guest with the same cast member.
** No money can be involved in the trade.
** Cast members with green lanyards can only trade with kids ages 3 to 12.

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Allowing your child to approach the cast member while you listen is a great way for them to learn and practice social interaction skills in a safe, controlled environment.

The start-up costs for pin-trading may seem expensive if you're buying for more than one child. This activity certainly can be pricey for the serious collectors. But if you're just trading for fun, there are some ways to lower expenses.

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First, you'll need something to display your pins. Many guests choose lanyards, which typically are the least-expensive option. You can purchase them in just about any Disney World gift ship, or perhaps you already received some as part of a Disney promotion. For example, Disney Cruise Line gives lanyards to returning cruisers and Disney World passholders received them one year as well. Another option is a soft album, and these come in various sizes and prices. The smaller ones actually have straps and can be worn as a bag or purse.

My children have multiple lanyards -- one for pins they want to save and one for pins they are willing to trade. After losing a few pins that were near-and-dear to their hearts, we invested in the locking backs -- about $10 for 10 backs. Now, though, I almost wish we had bought the more expensive album-type bags because I think they would allow easier access to the pins -- no locking backs needed -- and there would be less opportunity for loss because of the zippered closure.

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The other big expense is the pins themselves. Pins in the parks start at about $7 and increase in price. This can add up quickly if you want to give your child a handful to get started. You can purchase a starter set, which contains several pins and a lanyard. Those prices begin at about $30.

But, if you're not picky about the design, many guests recommend purchasing pins on eBay for the best deal. Typically those lots contain anywhere from 25 to 100 pins, making the average cost less than a dollar per pin. Don't need 100 pins? Perhaps you can split the lot with friends. Be aware, however, that some of these sellers are offering scrappers, which are pins not authorized by Disney and cannot be traded on property.

Guests who are really into pin trading look forward to an annual event at Epcot that is just for them. This year's "Disney Trade Celebration 2012 - Mickey's Circus" takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on September 7 and 8. Event admission is $120 per person plus Epcot admission, and registration has opened. For all the details, check out here.

Also, Downtown Disney Marketplace's Disney's Pin Traders is continuing to host monthly events with Disney Design Group artists. Artist Adrianne Draude, who is behind the creation of a number of Walt Disney World pins, will be meeting with fans and signing pins from 5 to 7 p.m. on July 27, August 10, and September 28. (Be sure to subscribe to the AllEars.Net newsletter for all the latest news of special pin-trading events.)

For answers to many other questions, check out Disney's official pin-trading site, and please share your pin-trading tips and experiences in the comments.

June 21, 2012

Finding art opportunities for kids at Disney World

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Do you have a budding young artist in your family? If so, you might be surprised to learn that there are many opportunities for your child to explore his or her creativity while you're on vacation at Walt Disney World.

In recent years, Disney World has built on the popularity of the Magic of Disney Animation at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Inside this attraction, guests come to understand the process of developing characters for films, including seeing an artist's studio and artwork from a current film. In the attraction's Animation Academy visitors learn to draw popular Disney characters from a qualified animator.

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Another location where guests can hone their drawing skills is at Animation Academy inside DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney. These 30-minute classes take guests through the process of drawing Mickey and his pals step-by-step. Be sure to check the posted schedule on the second floor when you arrive at the gaming attraction if there is a particular character you'd like to draw that day.

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Afterward, guests can purchase their drawings for $5 each or a package that includes the drawing and a pin for $12. There is no other charge for Animation Academy. One-day admission to DisneyQuest is $37 plus tax for children ages 3 to 9 and $43 for ages 10 and older. (For more details, be sure to check out the AllEars.net resource page)

Most recently, a similar activity has been built in the lobby of the new Art of Animation hotel. Tucked in a corner to the left of the registration desks, guests will find comfy benches and an animation station, where the instructor shows line by line on a projection screen how to bring a Disney character to life. Here, guests draw on paper, while at the Magic of Disney Animation and DisneyQuest Animation Academy, the characters are created on a screen.

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Art of Animation classes take place on the hour Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and are free to Art of Animation guests. (For more about the new Art of Animation hotel, be sure to read the AllEars.Net overview)

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If you missed the class for the character you really wanted to be able to draw on your own, the resort sells books that teach visitors how to create Mickey Mouse and his pals from scratch. New on Disney World shelves: A guide to drawing Merida and other "Brave" characters. My children have collected just about all of these books on various trips to Disney World and continue to use them at home.

In addition to taking animation classes, young artists might enjoy watching professionals at work. At Magic Kingdom, guests will find street artists waiting to draw their portraits. As with most activities at the theme park, guests are invited to watch and even ask questions. This is a good opportunity for those interested in sketching to learn what it takes to do work on the spot.

Some hotels also have "resident" artists, such as the one at Port Orleans Riverside. A painter in the lobby from 6 to 11 p.m. will create customized face and full-body images for guests. Pricing starts at $15 for a black-and-white face painting and increases to $28 for a full-color body painting.

Families who visit Disney World in the fall are in for a treat: the Festival of the Masters takes over Downtown Disney from November 9 to 11. This is open-air art show offers one-of-a-kind paintings, photographs, sculptures, jewelry and more. Animation Academy is moved outside DisneyQuest and the sidewalk art is amazing.

Plus, there are many art opportunities for kids. Last year, my son was most excited by the Epic Mickey gaming booth. Not only did he get to preview the much-anticipated game, but animators were drawing Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and giving them to guests in line. A Disney spokeswoman confirmed there will be a booth for Epic Mickey 2 at this year's Festival of the Master. Admission to the festival is free.

If you've found other art opportunities for kids at Disney World, please tell us about them in the comments.

June 14, 2012

Ideas for celebrating Father's Day at Walt Disney World

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It's not too late to plan a fun-filled Father's Day weekend at Walt Disney World -- and there are even some last-minute bargains to be had. From traditional pastimes in the most magical of locations to experiences created only by Disney, dads are sure to appreciate their happy day at The Most Magical Place on Earth. Let's consider some of the things most dads enjoy - fast cars, sports, beer and spending time with their loved ones.

Cars

If your dad or husband is into fast cars, visit the Walt Disney World Speedway and let him get inside a NASCAR-style stock car for three laps with a professional driver. Ride-alongs through the Richard Petty Driving Experience start at $109 and do not require reservations. Looking for a splurge? Put him behind the wheel, starting at $449. (My husband, who is not a NASCAR fan, has experienced the ride-along and was surprised by how much he enjoyed it.) By booking ahead of time at 1-800-237-3889, you can get the ride-along for $59 for Father's Day. Also, any drive experience qualifies for a second one at half off, if booked in advance this week.

The Exotic Driving Experience -- allowing guests to drive supercars by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi and Porsche -- is new to Walt Disney World Speedway this year. It is not available on Father's Day, but you can purchase a ride for later in the month by calling 855-822-0149. Prices range from $169 to $419. (Read more about these thrilling experiences at http://allears.net/btp/petty.htm)

Is your man more comfortable in the stands? Make sure you visit Disney's Hollywood Studios and watch the "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" that is performed multiple times each day. This is a fun look at what it takes to film stunts, and there are plenty of surprises along the way. FastPasses are available for the 40-minute show.

Golf

Men who love to golf can choose from five courses on Walt Disney World property: Disney's Palm and Magnolia, Lake Buena Vista, Osprey Ridge and Oak Trail. Last year, Arnold Palmer Golf Management took over the operation and maintenance of the courses. (Greens fees for the 9-hole Oak Trail are included in Disney World premium annual passes.)

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If you want to spend time with the man of your family while he enjoys the game, why not try Disney World's family friendly miniature golf courses? Winter Summerland, located adjacent to Blizzard Beach water park, has 36 holes of wonderfully themed putting greens. Fantasia Gardens, located near the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotel, offers putting greens and a par-3 course. Cost is $12.52 per 18 holes for adults and $10.39 for ages 3 to 9. Passholders receive a 50 percent discount. Also, the second round on the same day is half off for all guests.(AllEars has more details about the courses here and here)

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Drinking around the World

Dads who want to sample alcohol of different origins might want to consider an adults-only afternoon or evening at Epcot. With eleven countries represented in the World Showcase, there are quite a few options. Among the perennial favorites: La Cava del Tequila inside the Mexico pavilion for unique margaritas; Sommerfest in Germany for an Oktoberfest beer; Les Vins des Chefs de France cart in France for the Grand Mariner Orange Slush and the Grey Goose Citron Lemonade Slush; and the Rose & Crown Pub in the United Kingdom for various ales and lagers that can be combined.

Not going into a theme park on Sunday? There are many Disney hotels and restaurants that house cool lounges and bars. The Disney Food Blog gives us a list of the Top 10 here.

Family time

Maybe Dad's biggest desire for his special day is to make some unique memories with his children at Walt Disney World. At the Magic Kingdom, fathers might enjoy watching their daughters be transformed into the princesses of their dreams at the Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique. He also might like to see his sweet little girl change into a menacing pirate at the Magic Kingdom's Pirate League.

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Others might like to share their love of trains with their kids, learning more about them through Disney's "The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains" tour at Walt Disney World (ages 10 and older).

Perhaps dinner and a show about fatherhood would be just the ticket. If so, "Finding Nemo -- The Musical" is a Broadway-style performance daily at Disney's Animal Kingdom sure to entertain everyone in the family. Nearby, Flame Tree Barbecue offers the traditional favorite meals with outdoor terrace seating, and it gives Dad a break from manning the grill for a change. (See the menu here.)

These are just a few - and, granted, stereotypical - ideas, but there are so many more possibilities for celebrating Father's Day at Walt Disney World. With your imagination and all that Walt Disney World offers, you can create a very special day.

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About Disney's Hollywood Studios

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Disney's Hollywood Studios category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is the previous category.

Epcot is the next category.

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