Monday, August 29, 2011

Magical Moments - Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Starting on 9/30 and running until 11/13 is one of my favorite events at WDW, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. During this festival you can sample delicious food and wine from around the world, see some of your favorite singers from the 80's and 90's in concert, and attend special events set up around World Showcase Lagoon. Located in Future World East is the 2011 Food and Wine Festival Welcome Center. Here you can plan your day by picking up your Marketplace Discovery Passport which identifies the food and wine kiosks or "Marketplaces" set up around World Showcase. You can also attend a variety of culinary offerings in the Welcome Center such as cooking demonstrations and book signings.

The theme of this years EIF&WF is "A Passport to a World of Flavors". The festival will feature 25 Marketplaces from which you can purchase sample sized portions. You will be able to try food from places as diverse as Australia, Brazil, Singapore and Ireland as well as many others. This year features three new Marketplaces, Hawaii, Portugal and the Caribbean Islands. The samples range in price from about $3 to $8.

The Eat to the Beat Concert Series is held at the American Gardens Theatre and features three performances each day at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45. Performers this year include Taylor Dayne, The Pointer Sisters, Air Supply and Richard Marx.

There are a number of Speical Events the take place during the festival as well as some Premium Events, the Premium Events require a seperate admission. Special Events include: The Cranberry Bog Display presented by Ocean Spray, where you can learn about the history, harvesting process and health benefits of cranberries; the Home Entertaining Seminar Hosted by HGTV in which your favorite HGTV stars share creative ideas to entertain at home; Book Signings and Meet & Greets for celebrated authors and personalities from the food and beverage industry; and Bottle Signings by celebrated winemakers.

Premium Events include: Mixology Seminars where an expert demonstrates how to create both trendy and classic cocktails, and serve you the final product ($12 per person); Culinary Demonstrations in which celebrated chef's give tips for working in the kitchen as well as offer delicious samples ($11-$13 per person); Wine & Beverage Seminars where you can learn tips form wine/beverage experts as well as sample some of their offerings; and the Party of the Senses which inludes a reserved seat at the Eat to the Beat concert and then dinner featuring international cuisine. Entertainment for the Party of the Senses is provided by Cirque du Soleil (over $60 per person).

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is a truly unique experience that we highly recommend attending. A few tips: Be sure to stop by the Welcome Center and plan your day. We've mentioned some of the events that take place but there are many more. Find out what events you want to attend and plan accordingly. If you plan on attending one of the Premium Events, buy your tickets in advance. These events are very popular and can sell out. If you want seats close to the stage during the concerts, plan on standing in line at least 30 minutes prior to the show. Finally, relax and enjoy yourself. Do not feel you need to see or sample everything, just take your time and have fun.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Magical Moment - Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

Since we are almost through the dog days of summer, we thought it would be a good time to start talking about some upcoming events at WDW.

Starting on Sept. 13th, the Magic Kingdom will begin presenting Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. If you are planning a trip to WDW in Sept. or Oct. be sure to catch this fun event. As the name implies, this Halloween Party can be enjoyed by the whole family. This is the one time when adults can dress up in costume at the Magic Kingdom, which I highly encourage, it only adds to the fun.

The first thing you will notice when you arrive for the party is that MK has been transformed from the Happiest Place on Earth to the Spookiest Place on Earth. The entrance to the park is bathed in mist while the buildings are lit in jues of green, purple and orange. Images of ghosts are projected on the buildings along Main Street USA while Halloween music plays.

(Image of Arden & Christy Beach courtesy of Matt Beach)

The two highlights of the party are, Mickey's Boo to You Parade and Happy HalloWishes Fireworks. The Parade features all your favorite Disney characters (plus a few surprises) in their Halloween costumes on special Halloween themed floats. The fireworks feature the Grim Grinning Ghosts from the Haunted Mansion throwing a party in the skies high above MK with all your favorite Disney Villains.

(Images courtesy of Matt Beach)

The party also features a show on the Castle Forecourt Stage, Disney Villian Mix and Mingle, as well as Halloween Dance Parties with live DJ's. You can also trick or treat around the park collecting candy at designated spots. This is an incredible event and I suggest getting tickets on line prior to attending.

(Image courtesy of Matt Beach)

A few tips: the parade occurs twice (8:15 & 10:30), the second is usually the less busy of the two. Fireworks are at 9:30 and I've found the best place to view them is on Main Street near Casey's Corner. Spots where you can trick or treat are illuminated with a large balloon, the candy is the same at each spot, so there is no searching for the "good stuff". Because there are a limited number of tickets sold for each party there shouldn't be long lines for the attractions. A great time to do some of the most popular attractions is during the first parade. Dates and prices of the event can be found on the official WDW website. If you decide to attend the party we hope you have a great time.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dining - Character Dining

The problem that arises when you attempt to categorize postings is that from time to time something falls into multiple categories. This is the case with character dining. Character dining could be either a Dining experience or a Magical Moment. Either way, it is a must for so many guests.

We received a question on our Facebook page as to which character dining we recommend. Since the answer is not quite as straight forward as the question, we thought a post may help.

There are three main things to consider when planning to attend a character meal:

1. Is the main guest a boy, girl, or is it a mix?

2. What character(s) or types of character(s) are you most interested in?

3. Do you want breakfast or dinner?

Let's take these one at a time. First, it is important to know who is attending the meal. If you are hoping to create a special memory for your son, you may want to attend a meal with Stitch or Mickey Mouse. However, if your daughter is the guest of honor, you may want to consider a princess inspired meal. Either way, all are enjoyable and offer subtle, yet memorable differences.

Second, if you like Winnie the Pooh you have one option, while you have more opportunities to see Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. So, make a decision on who you want to snap photos with while enjoying your meal.

Last, the choice between breakfast and dinner may affect your list of choices. I will say that after attending more character meals than should be allowed, I find with one exception, the quality of the food offered at breakfast surpasses that offered at dinner by far. That said, I highly recommend considering breakfast.

Now that you have considered the big three questions, what are your choices? And, what do you recommend? Well...


1900 Park Fare: Location: Grand Floridian Cuisine: American Characters: Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drisella now appear at dinner nightly Recommendation: The characters are very inviting and may be your only chance to meet Prince Charming. That said, the meal is not very good.

Cinderella's Royal Table: Location: Cinderella Castle Cuisine: American Characters: Cinderella, Fairy Godmother Recommendation: Unlike many character meals, this is NOT a buffet. Dining in the castle is an experience all its own. Not only will you eat in a castle, but you will be treated like royalty as you get the opportunity to pose with Cinderella herself, with the photo package.

Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall: Location: Norway Pavilion EPCOT Cuisine: Norwegian Characters: Belle, Aurora, and other Disney Princesses Recommendation: This is my favorite princess meal! You have many opportunities to meet several princesses. Lunch & dinner are also served family style.

The Fab Five:

Chef Mickey's Buffet: Location: Contemporary Cuisine: American Characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto Recommendation: Breakfast is much better than dinner at this location!

Donald's Safari Breakfast at Tusker House: Location: Tusker House (Animal Kingdom) Cuisine: American Characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto Recommendation: By far my favorite character meal! The food seems better and the interaction with the characters is great. This is a breakfast only meal.

Mickey's Backyard Barbecue: Location: The Settlement at Fort Wilderness Resort Cuisine: American Characters: Mickey Mouse Recommendation: This is held outdoors, so weather is a factor!

Cape May Cafe: Location: Beach Club Cuisine: American Characters: Minnie, Goofy, Donald Recommendation: Characters appear ONLY during breakfast.

Garden Grove: Location: Swan & Dolphin Cuisine: American Characters: Mickey & Friends Recommendation: Characters appear at dinner each day and breakfast on the weekends.

Other Characters:

The Crystal Palace: Location: Magic Kingdom Cuisine: American Characters: Winnie the Pooh and Friends Recommendation: Breakfast is best here. Early reservations also get you into the Magic Kingdom early. This makes for some unique looks at the park without crowds and will lead to wonderful photo opportunities.

1900 Park Fare: Location: Grand Floridian Cuisine: American Characters: Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter and friends Recommendation: The characters are available at breakfast each day. Other than a potential sighting in the World Showcase, this may be the best time to meet these characters.

Ohana's Best Friends' Breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch: Location: Polynesian Resort Cuisine: Polynesian Characters: Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Pluto Recommendation: This is a breakfast only character meal.

Hollywood and Vine: Location: Hollywood Studios Cuisine: American Characters: Agent OSO, Handy Manny, June and Leo (Little Einsteins) Recommendation: Characters appear at breakfast only.

Wonderland Tea Party: Location: Grand Floridian Cuisine: Note Below Characters: Alice, the Mad Hatter Recommendation: Only 25 people are allowed per day to ensure ample interaction between the characters and guests, so make reservations early. Also, this really isn't a meal, but is worth noting simply because it's Alice!

Although you can book reservations while there, it is best to reserve a time 90 days in advance if possible. Simply call (407) WDW-DINE.

Have you tried any of these character meals? Which did you enjoy most? What was your favorite dish?