We got to preview some of the amazing festivities and events taking place this holiday season at WDW! Join us as we look at some of the new snacks, merchandise, and more!
Disclosure: Disney hosted us for this event, but these opinions are our own!
While our roving movie reviewer Christian may not have felt The Lion King2019 edition was worth spending your money on, Disney IS putting their money to good use with several initiatives sending money to where real-life lions need it the most and Protect the Pride. And while I will be the first to admit, Disney tends to go overboard with the merchandise and promotion of all of their films, in this case, it is actually doing good along with the usual profits.
Disney recently invited us out to see some of the in-park celebrations and programs they have coordinated with the July 19th release of The Lion King. They hosted us for a day in the park and treated us to lunch as we experienced some of these offerings. As always, my opinions and views are my own, and I am posting about these initiatives because animal conservation is something near and dear to my heart, as is Animal Kingdom in general (and I get a bit defensive when people don’t enjoy the park on its own!).
It’s hard to believe, but in the 25 years since The Lion King first came out, half the lion population has been lost, and only 20,000 remain. To counter these facts, Disney launched The Lion King “Protect the Pride” campaign in conjunction with the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund in an effort to double the lion population by 2050.
But this isn’t a new effort for Disney – since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed up to $75 million ($13M to projects across Africa) to save wildlife and protect the planet. Disney has already donated more than $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund and its partners. Now to celebrate the newest release of The Lion King, Disney is asking fans to help by taking part in The Lion King Celebration happening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom – For every guest who rides the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida during opening week of The Lion King film (July 19 – 25, 2019), Disney Conservation Fund will donate $2 (up to $350,000) to the Wildlife Conservation Network in support of the Lion Recovery Fund’s efforts to help double the number of lions across Africa by 2050. (Theme park admission is required.)
Disney Stores & U.S Parks – 40,000 Special Edition The Lion King 2019 Simba and Nala plush lions are available for purchase at Disney stores across the globe. Each of the 40,000 plush represents one of the lions for which Disney and the Lion Recovery Fund are working to ensure a future. For each Special Edition lion sold, Disney will donate US $5 to the Wildlife Conservation Network in support of the Lion Recovery Fund and its local partners. Visit Disney.com/LionKingProtectThePride to learn more.
The Lion King fun doesn’t end there. In addition to Protect the Pride, there are a lot of new offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to help celebrate and really commemorate the spirit of The Lion King. The Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party (which is REALLY fun and I’m not usually a dance party kind of girl), photo opportunities featuring dimensional backgrounds (some you can see in this post), and “Rivers of Light: We Are One,” which is now reimagined with familiar animals from Disneynature films and classic moments from Disney animation. I have not personally seen the new show yet, but did love the original Rivers of Light when it first debuted.
A new Dooney & Bourke collection will be available at Mombasa Marketplace and Discovery Trading Company. The collection includes a satchel, crossbody and tote with a pattern featuring beloved characters such as Simba, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa. These handbags are available now while supplies last.
And of course, those adorable Simba and Nala collectible plush where $5 goes toward saving lions:
With the great success over in Epcot, there is a new hunt themed to, you guessed it, The Lion King. Characters from The Lion King are hidden around Harambe Village. We saw some on our visit and they are really cool but I won’t spoil their locations! Each time you spot one, add the corresponding sticker to your map. The map is available at the Outpost Shop, Discovery Trading Company, Island Mercantile, and Mombasa Marketplace for $6.99. Return your map to Mombasa Marketplace or The Outpost Shop by 9/28/19 or while supplies last for a “savanna surprise”. (which is actually a really cool hand-painted collectible!). If you just want to get the prize at the end, you can purchase the three for $6.99 a piece.
There are some snack and drink options that will really make you roar. These special drinks and snacks will be available through the end of the summer. All of the images below are ©Disney (except the first one, obviously not up to Disney quality haha). Most all of these snacks are extremely sweet, so go prepared to experience an extreme sugar rush. Not pictured are Simba and Nala waffles from Tusker House for breakfast, and the SImba Cupcake from Pizzafari.
Also recently added to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the return of Animation Academy, which we all miss from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The “new” Disney’s Animation Experience is over in Rafiki’s Planet Watch, accessible by train from Harambe and a short walk from the station. This is now the only thing in the building, so you must wait for the next session to start before being let in to choose a seat and a clipboard with paper and pencil. The seating is very tight and cramped but if you’re lucky, they’ll let you spread out so you have a little elbow room.
During our session, we drew Simba and it was much “easier” (if that’s possible for a total non-drawer like myself) with some lines and the main face circle already printed on the paper. If you love to draw, and love to pet animals like goats and pigs and llamas, definitely head over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and stop by the petting zoo while you’re there.
All in all, I think this is a great example of Disney synergy used for good. Yes, there are new purses and snacks and even an extra ticketed event. [Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night – an after-hours progressive dining event where each course is themed to a different African animal, with amazing desserts, and the opportunity to enjoy a Virtual Reality experience with the resident lions from Kilamanjaro Safaris – for $125 per adult on select nights]. Despite all of that, Disney is also highlighting the importance of conservation of lions and all endangered animals. What these new offerings did was allow me to experience Animal Kingdom in a whole new way. This is always great for a jaded local who was there on opening day. If it helps Protect the Pride, all the better.
What about you? Will you experience any of these Lion King Celebration activities? If you can’t make it down for the summer, what’s a favorite memory you have from Animal Kingdom? I’d love to hear it!
Disclosure: As mentioned above, Disney invited us to this event. They provided admission to the park, lunch, and gift cards to purchase snacks. Again, my opinions are my own. I think it’s important to note that I have an annual pass. I have also paid on my own to dine at Tiffins many times. If I didn’t like something, you’d know. But I also have to assume, if you are reading this, you are probably a Disney parks fan too. Thanks for reading!
The newest offering in the hard-ticketed after-hours events at Disney Parks is the Villains After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom. This is sort of a combination of the existing After Hours events, the various villains events that have happened in the past such as “Club Villain” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is currently housed, the villains parties that took place a few years back also at the Studios, and even a little Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party thrown in for fun. But what makes this new event different, and is it worth it?
Let’s start with that last question – is it worth it? At $144 per person for day-of tickets, it’s one of the more pricier after hours events, with 3 hours in the park, that comes out to a little under $50 an hour to experience. But, tickets are $133 if purchased in advance, and available even more discounted for annual passholders and DVC members at $109. All those prices do not include tax. And what exactly is included in that ticket?
Well first off, you can enter the park with your Villains After Hours ticket as early as 7pm, giving you essentially 3 EXTRA hours to your 3 hour party. However those extra hours are with regular park guests, so you can enjoy all the rides and dining etc, but you won’t have the park pretty much to yourself, as you will after 10pm.
Once 10pm hits, you can now enjoy complimentary popcorn, ice cream novelties (Mickey Bars!) and select bottled beverages throughout the night. (You always think you can eat 5lbs of popcorn or 27 Mickey bars until they are free, then suddenly that’s really hard to do! 😉 ) There are specialty food and drink items sold at the event too, if you want to get that perfect insta-food photo, this is a great place to do that.
Also included in Villains After Hours is an all-new villains stage show, hosted by the king of the underworld himself, Hades. This is a new spin on the villains stage shows we’ve seen in the past, this time focusing on what each villain has to offer to take over the world. So less singing, more fire and ax spinning and that sort of thing. But it’s a fun show, which runs three times during the party. You can watch the full Villains Unite the Night show here:
Also unique to this event is “Maleficent at Night” which happens twice throughout the night. This gives you a chance to see the fire-breathing dragon at night, which looks amazing against the night sky and with Cinderella Castle as a backdrop. The first time, Maleficent departs from Frontierland and circles the hub in front of the castle, and on the second visit, she goes all the way down Main Street, U.S.A. A definite must-see and really makes me miss a night-time parade in the Magic Kingdom!
Lastly, there are special photo-op backdrops happening throughout the park, but no character meet and greets. (They are all practicing their moves for the show!). There is also limited release merchandise exclusive to the event, along with more villainy fun items available to purchase at the event.
So is it worth it? I’ll say what I’ve said before regarding the After Hours parties. If you are able to afford it and use one less regular ticket on a day you’re doing this hard ticketed event, it totally is, for the ride times alone, along with all the specially themed fun going on around you. It’s a good time, but it does come at a price, so if it works for your next visit, great. If not, that’s what YouTube is for!
Disclosure: Disney invited us out to this event so it was complimentary to us but our opinions, thoughts, and reviews are, as always, our own.
There is a brand new night-time party going on at Magic Kingdom – Villains After Hours! Join us as we check out everything the event has to offer. Thank you to Disney for inviting us out to this party!
For more information and to get your own tickets to this event, visit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/eve…
And check out our footage of the ‘Villains Unite’ show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrtOx…
This video was filmed on June 7th, 2019, at Magic Kingdom, for the Villains After Hours event. Check it out below!
In 2019 Magic Kingdom has introduced a brand new After Hours event, Villains After Hours. This is the main-stage castle show of the event. Join Hades and all of your favorite villains as they try to take over the universe!
This full-show video was filmed on June 7th, 2019 at the Magic Kingdom, for the Villians After Hours event. Check it out below!
Tomorrow is the 30th Anniversary of the park formerly known as (and still referred to by many die-hard fans) the Disney-MGM Studios. This fading gem of a little park holds a dear place in my heart as well as many others, and has certainly been through quite a few changes in an attempt to grow with the times. Will these changes conclude with a name change for the park? Will the quaint “Old Hollywood” feel be no more? Only time can tell.
Starting today and concluding tomorrow, we’ll be at a media event being held at the Studios. Who knows what news or updates will come from this event, but I figured it would be good to have one landing point to keep track of them all. Keep checking back at this link throughout the day today and tomorrow for any breaking news items from Disney Parks, and of course, follow along on social media with me on instagram, twitter, and facebook.
Here is our first set of updates from today’s event, if you haven’t already seen them on my Instagram story:
We learned about Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, including the Mickey short the ride will be based on – Perfect Picnic. We will be riding with Conductor Goofy on the Run Amok Railroad, traveling to Amok Park. Then, as the names imply, surprises ensue and things don’t go as planned.
Special care is being taken to ensure there are no shiny surfaces on the ride, in keeping with the 2-D animation style of the shorts. We saw a model of the train, then the hand-painted version, as well as being shown what it looks like in white light and black light.
We were also shown the attraction marquee, which will be animated neon in style. We’re really excited to see the finished version of this attraction. We’ll update again if we can get any further info or questions answered on the ride.
You can see more about the music in my instagram story!
You can also read my past posts on Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to pass the time until the updates:
You may have noticed that Walt Disney World has been experimenting over the past few years with various “add-on” events. Whether it’s a dessert party that comes with fireworks viewing, or a dinner package for a nighttime event, or realizing that they can close down a park early and re-open it for a separate ticket and people will love it, Disney has been pretty successful with this. But are these extra additions, like Disney After Hours, worth the price? We’ll discuss that below and let you decide. But first, a little backstory…
It’s no secret that Walt Disney World Resort is more crowded than ever and it’s not slowing down any time soon. It wasn’t too long ago that there were blissful “slow times” at WDW. Those were the times that locals waited for, and during which smart planners booked their vacations. Times when the lines were down, the weather was better, and it made all the difference. Disney noticed these times too, and thought “Hey, we should make a reason for people to come down and visit when our numbers are down….maybe a….festival or something? And the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was born.
Way back in 1994, Epcot would create fun springtime topiaries, and thought turning it into a festival was a natural answer to the slower time between Mother’s Day and the start of summer. The next year, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began, during the usually slow time in the early Fall when school was back up but before the holidays started.
Over many successful years, these festivals filled in the gap of less crowds, leaving only one major time when the park had noticeably less guests. A new experiment, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts filled in that gap. This festival was born of the former “Festival of the Masters” that took place at Downtown Disney, before it was rejuvenated as Disney Springs. Now, I cannot even fathom having a festival at Disney Springs on a weekend, the crowds would make it impossible to even move. The festival takes place in the weeks between January and February before February vacation and then Spring Break begin. It is the favorite time for many a local. The weather is usually cold, or at least cooler and not humid (though nothing is a guarantee in central Florida), and because of the time period, less families are taking off and going on vacation. It is glorious. Or it was.
Nowadays, there aren’t many times when you can find a Disney park or Disney Springs “less crowded.” There are events, either festivals or races or seasonal parties filling in pretty much every day of the year. Sure, going during the week, when school is in session will be slightly more manageable, but long gone are the days when you didn’t have to plan ahead and could just roll up, expect to walk on a ride or walk in to a table service restaurant and expect to be seated. It is a different time, one of FastPasses, ADR’s (neither of which guarantee a quick wait) and constant crowds. But I’m not here to comment on the changing times and yell at you kids to get off my lawn. I’m just giving some background as to how these events have been creeping up over time. What once was a display of flowers and topiaries has turned into a mini food and wine festival itself. What was once a festival to try some new international dishes, sample some wines and beers and see demonstrations from chefs around the world, has turned into Drinking Around the World with t-shirts to match (that’s another post on its own from me :P) And the latest addition to these free (minus attendance and cost of food/drinks of course) events, has been dessert parties and the like.
Don’t want to worry about where to stand for the perfect fireworks or parade view? There’s an add-on package for you. Getting “free” candy or cookies and treats during the already separate ticketed event of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party not enough? There’s a dessert party add-on for you too! But the truth is, in the last few years, the hard-ticketed parties are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and while yes, wait times are reduced compared to a typical day, there are still a LOT of guests there, especially during the fireworks and parade times. So what’s the answer for those that want to enjoy a bit of the old reduced-crowd Disney parks experience? The answer is – Disney After Hours.
Yes, this event is very limited to specific dates over the course of the year, and yes, it is $129 per person – adult or child. BUT – it IS worth it – in most cases. Let’s figure out why.
First, I understand that many people reading this may not be locals or passholders, but guests who plan for years and need accommodations and park hopper passes and a host of other items locals don’t normally have to worry about. So while it may seem flippant for me to say “it’s worth the extra $130!” I promise, I am taking vacationers into account.
What I am suggesting is that, if you are able to work an After Hours event into your existing vacation dates, that you could perhaps do it on a day where you visited a water park or Disney Springs during the day, enjoy a dinner there, at a resort, or even off-property, saving a day of your Park Hoppers. Then return to the After Hours park and enjoy multiple (and I do mean multiple) rides on the available attractions of your choice, which are traditionally either impossible to get FastPasses for or easily have over 100 minute waits daily, no matter the time of year. In addition, you get unlimited ice cream novelties and select bottled beverages during the event! Other locations are open during the event to purchase food and drink items (and merchandise) too. It would also make planning the rest of your days easier. If you know you’ll be able to ride your favorites After Hours, you could take the time to enjoy attractions or places that you put off seeing during a normal visit when everything is action-packed and scheduled to the minute.
I have now experienced two parks at After Hours events, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and I was truly worried I would not think it was worth it. But the lack of stress while in a Disney park; no worrying about waiting in line, having time to see it all, making sure everyone gets to ride their favorites, is quite simply, heavenly. It reminded me of a time gone by, when you could stroll the parks and drink in all the details and still enjoy attractions as well. The fact that it’s at night and everything looks extra magical and lit up is just a bonus in my opinion.
EDIT: I have now experienced all 3 parks Disney After Hours events (I don’t think Epcot could ever offer this because it’s just SO big, maybe if they did Future World only, but then there would only be 2 real attraction draws, although the same could be said for Animal Kingdom I suppose?). I worried at first that Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be more crowded because there are quite a few attractions that have a huge wait or are difficult to get FastPasses for. However, I was surprised to see that because the popular areas of the park are spread out, it wasn’t really an issue. We went to Slinky Dog Dash first, and the wait time was 10 minutes, and it truly was 10 minutes. But as the night went on, it was down even lower to the usual 5. And that’s for the newest attraction in any park. Rock ‘n Roller Coaster was a walk-on, as was Tower of Terror and every other open attraction.
I think Hollywood Studios was my favorite for this event, because it’s always been one of my favorite parks to just stroll and enjoy the details, but add Christmas decorations which DHS has really bumped up in the last 2 years, and the fact that the projections on Tower of Terror, now with snow and lasers were going on all night, and it was truly a magical experience.
So is it worth it for everyone? Does the cost make sense for the value (amount of hours, attractions you can ride in those hours, free snacks)? Well, the answer may be different for every guest, depending on your vacation style or if you’re vacationing at all. I think for the price and experience, if you are a single or couple visitor, the benefits are a no-brainer. If you have many little kids that may not take advantage of the attractions available, it might be a great time to try out the on-site kids clubs. 😉 I think it was a great time and love the atmosphere and feeling like you truly have the parks to yourselves. Click photos below to scroll through the gallery:
Admission to Disney After Hours can be purchased in advance for $125 per adult or child, plus tax—or purchased on the day of the event for $129 per adult or child, plus tax. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of specially priced tickets for just $95 per adult or child, plus tax. – So very similar to passholder rates for the seasonal parties.
Guests with Disney After Hours tickets can enter the park at 7:00 PM every event night.
The event takes place from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM:
And 9:00 PM to midnight:
And 8:00 PM to 11:00PM:
The event takes place from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM:
And 9:00 PM to midnight:
*All attractions and entertainment are subject to change without notice.
The event takes place from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM:
Disclaimer: I was invited by Disney to experience Disney After Hours as a hosted guest. My opinions and thoughts are, as always, my own.
I will be experiencing Disney After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios tomorrow (12/8) and will add to this post any further notes. Be sure to follow along on my instagram story throughout the night to see what it’s like!
Are you planning to experience Disney After Hours? I’d love to know your thoughts below!
I love a good festival. Art, Food, Renaissance, Fools, I’m always up for a festival. I’ve written many times before about the various established Epcot festivals. Originally begun to bolster lower attendance weeks at Walt Disney World, the first modern, well-promoted festival at Epcot was the International Flower and Garden Festival, which began in 1993. I missed the first couple of years, but when I moved down in 1995 and began working for Walt Disney World, it became a tradition to attend. The Flower and Garden Festival always revolved around Mother’s Day and back then, Disney provided a free photo op (much like they also used to at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party). It became a Mother’s Day tradition to attend with my mom, enjoy all the fun topiaries and floral displays, dine in France, and get our photo taken together. Also in 1995, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began. I remember how exciting those first years were; being able to stroll around World Showcase and sample smaller bites from countries that may not have a full pavilion, but have some great flavors to offer. It was a fun time.
Now, there are very few “low attendance times” at Walt Disney World. People now plan their visits around the festivals, in order to try the food items, or take part in the many seminars and sessions offered. Another addition over the years was runDisney appearing on the scene, with some races around the festivals, making it even more well-attended. And, of course, Epcot drinking teams also became a thing, giving Food & Wine bit of a reputation for drunken hordes roaming the World Showcase Promenade. That is not to say these festivals are not still enjoyable, just that they have considerably changed over the years, and become an entity unto themselves. As a local, it’s still fun to go on a weeknight and try the foods, or perhaps splurge on a dining event offered. My husband and I did the Parisian Afternoon last year and had a lovely time. There is always something new to see or experience, so you really can get out of the festivals what you want.
Enter #ArtfulEpcot. Quietly sauntering into the festival scene in the middle of January this year, the Epcot International Art Festival became an INSTANT hit. And I do mean instant. There was very little info provided about this festival far ahead of time. We saw a few photos of “artsy food” which, yes, looked amazing, but I don’t think I was alone when I thought, “oh, it’ll be Food & Wine in February…” and also wondered how they would pull off these artistic food creations under the usually extreme conditions of festival food booths. Then, I walked into Epcot the first Friday it opened, saw a perfectly crafted Figment topiary, complete with two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow, horns of a steer…he really was a lovable fellow. Sorry, it’s impossible for me not to break into song when discussing Figment. Anyway, I sort of fell in love, again, with Epcot.
Of course it was more than just a Figment topiary to make me appreciate this new festival. I attended an event which highlighted the various food creations, merchandise, and entertainment offerings within the festival. Every cast member on hand who spoke about their area of expertise was so passionate and excited. That excitement was contagious, and I soon realized this was something very different from just another festival. As we strolled around Epcot, I saw more and more reasons why this was going to be a big hit.
There are many different types of Disney fan out there. I’ve spoken about what kind I am before, and though there are most certainly no wrong or right type of fan, there are many others like me, who love the history of the Walt Disney Company, the pioneering advances and different thinking that made it succeed, even while it was doomed to fail. We Disney history nerds love the original concept, hopes, and ideals that EPCOT Center stood for both in Walt’s initial idea, and the 1982-1994 incarnation of the theme park once known as EPCOT Center. I have professed my love for this park endless times. That park doesn’t really exist today, but you can see glimpses and sparks of it if you know where to look. As an EPCOT Center fan, it’s completely normal and acceptable behavior to stare at wall carpet, marvel at the ride system within Universe of Energy (Ellen’s Energy Adventure), or watch Impressions de France on repeat, while the rest of the park may be lining up for characters or Frozen or Test Track. That is not to say we can’t also enjoy some of the park’s current lineup. It is to say, we miss original EPCOT and all that it represented to us.
What the Epcot Festival of the Arts has done is found the perfect mix, to entertain the masses, and delight those who dearly miss what EPCOT once was. How? Well, for starters, the entire design of the festival speaks to EPCOT in a modern way. Muted, watercolor style images of park icons, including the original EPCOT Center logo, make my 1980’s heart sing. Figment is the “mascot” of the festival, but not in an annoying, or out of place way. He represents the very spirit of art, appearing in each World Showcase country, in a work of art hailing from the country you are in, only Figment-ized. A perfect way to get kids (and adults) interested in art and seek out more knowledge about the pieces featured, the countries, and art in general. This “scavenger hunt” featuring Figment is actually available as a paid activity. You purchase a Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt map for $6.99 from several possible locations, and then match the Figment artwork to the artwork featured in the World Showcase pavilions. Turn in your map when you’re done, and you’ll get a prize. It’s fun either way!
Speaking of art, there are not one but two mini-galleries of original and concept art at the festival. Artists, Imagineers and Disney Legends Herb Ryman and Mary Blair have their artwork displayed within (another EPCOT Center holdout) the Odyssey restaurant. There we can see huge versions of Ryman’s original concept art for EPCOT and its Future World pavilions, as well as a selection of Mary Blair’s South American-inspired art pieces. Also within the Odyssey are free – yes FREE – informational sessions from topics like the animation ink and paint process, to different types of tea. There are also paid sessions on specific art topics which include take-home items from the lesson too. As you stroll around World Showcase, there are also classes like origami making or anime drawing in Japan, various chalk displays around the world, and fun photo ops where you become part of a famous work of art. Animation Academy, once held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, also makes a reappearance in Innoventions during the festival.
The hit of the festival since it opened has been the Paint By Numbers Mural found between Future World and World Showcase. You are given – again, completely free – a tiny cup of paint and a paint brush and told to paint anywhere from 3-5 (depending on how busy it is) squares matching your color to your number. For the first few weekends, it was a Future World image, the full size version of what is available at character meets as the backdrop in the front of Epcot. Last weekend, the mural design was changed to a World Showcase image, which was also a big hit. When the murals are completed, they are changed out for blank canvases and guests can start all over again. It is sponsored by Glidden’s line of Disney-inspired paint names, so that adds for a fun connection.
The seven “Food Studios” (see full list of menu items at that link)as they call the food booths at this event, may be small in number, but the varied items almost all take a unique spin on a classic food item, or highlight favorites with an artistic twist. My favorites were the Classic Reuben, which looks anything but classic with it’s futuristic “rye curl” in place of traditional bread, and the Scallop with Chorizo found in America at The Artist’s Table. Oh, and don’t forget the jaw-dropping Piet Mondrian-inspired cake at Pop Eats! as well as adorable “chocolate easels” which are an edible work of art in the form of Figment, Mickey and Pluto, or Mary Blair designs. (Click to read full captions below)
Bridging the gap from classic art to modern, there are also many booths around World Showcase, featuring Disney artists and local artisans alike. Many of the artists are on hand to sign their work. It’s a great way to build your art collection with some originals or prints and meet your favorite artists at the same time.
To top off all that this festival has to offer, at the end of the day, Disney on Broadway Concert Series stars appear at the American Gardens Theatre three times a night, perfoming hit songs from the ever-growing catalog of the Disney Broadway productions. As a huge Broadway musical fan, these shows were the perfect fit. I’ve seen two sets of performers and every show was incredible. Such amazing talent. The shows always seem to have a full house too, so I think this series has been very well received.
Word has spread fast online about this incredible festival, which has quickly become my favorite of the Epcot festival lineup. Every aspect of Artful Epcot fills me with joy, and I hope it returns for years to come, running all week long instead of just long weekends. My only fear is that this charming, quaint, interactive festival that offers so much for so many, will lose that charm if it expands too much. However, I’ll put my confidence in the designers behind the scenes to ensure that doesn’t happen. Part of what made the Festival of the Arts such a success is the way it mixed history with present day, classic with modern, and just enough included opportunities that you don’t feel like you have to shell out premium prices (other than a ticket to the park), to experience all this festival has to offer.
There is just one weekend left to the Epcot Festival of the Arts, so I urge you to get down there, get some paint on your hands and chocolate on your face and ENJOY! If you’ve been, I’d love to hear what your favorite part of the festival was or what you hope is added next time around.
As much as I enjoy the unique foods offered at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival each year, it’s no secret that I actually prefer the Flower & Garden Festival by leaves and mounds (see what I did there? horticultural puns!). In all seriousness, it really is my favorite Festival, especially with the addition of the outdoor kitchens. Seeing new topiary creations each year, in addition to the old favorites always makes for great visits to Epcot, and fun photo ops, ensuring you explore and visit even some forgotten areas. Additionally, with the spring season at hand, the food options at the outdoor kitchens (now in their 4th year at the Festival), are lighter, more focused on vegetables and organic and locally sourced ingredients. The menus are fresh (there’s a reason they use #FreshEpcot as the hashtag for the Festival) and not too heavy, just perfect for strolling the park in the springtime.
This year, the Flower & Garden Festival runs from March 2 – May 30, expanding from 75 days last year, to a full 90 this year. Festival Horticultural Manager Eric Darden explained that they are prepared and excited for the challenge of a 90-day festival. With the previous length, they had 2 separate plantings to keep the gardens looking bright and full. This year, they may have to do 3 sets of plantings for some of the displays, ensuring no matter when you visit, the flowers will look as wonderful as day 1. Also new this year, is a new topiary character, Ranger Mickey, who, along with Chip n’ Dale, help celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary. I loved these new topiaries and of course, awareness of our amazing National Parks is always a good thing.
We were treated to a preview of some of the menu options as well as some of the areas which were still under construction. Set to open tomorrow, March 2nd, everything will be revealed and ready to go at park opening. Until then, enjoy some photos and further information on 23rd annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival!
(Hover over photos to read captions)
Of the samples we tried, I was most in love with the Shrimp and Grits and the Burnt Ends – so, so good and the flavors are ridiculous. I also really liked the Currywurst, which I guess used to be at Sommerfest, but I never tried it there. The Jerk Chicken was also a winner. I thought I had tried gin in my past and not been a fan, but mixed with the Cucumber Watermelon Slush, I really loved it. I would totally get this when I go back to the Festival. Of course the Festival Passport is back, and you can get stamps at every kiosk around the World Showcase. You can view all the menus, topiary checklist, Garden Rocks performers, and all the Festival info online before you go.
Will you be visiting during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival? What are you most looking forward to seeing and trying? We can’t wait to get back for more!
While Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is an annual tradition for my family, I will admit, I was never really one for the shows that would play each year in front of Cinderella Castle. I know that may be blasphemy for some Disney fans, but I just always wanted to spend our time during the party collecting candy, enjoying the decorations and other unique offerings, and riding attractions with limited waits.
However this year, Disney has changed the way I do MNSSHP! I was able to see the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular at the first party, after being chosen to attend the Disney Parks Blog meet-up. During that event, we were given VIP viewing for the show and the Boo-to-You parade, and as we waited for the brand new show to begin, the anticipation and excitement were palpable. We were surrounded by cast members who were involved in the show’s creation, from costumes to scripts to dancing and music, so it was extra special to see their proud reactions of the amazing show. And amazing is exactly what the show was.
From the opening song, “The Season of the Witch” the mood was set for a very different, very visual and audible treat. The projections and lighting on the castle were fantastic, the costumes and dancers even better. Soon the Sanderson Sisters took the stage, and the crowd erupted in applause. From that point on, the show was a mix of lines and actions straight from the movie, to more subtler nods that hardcore fans would recognize. The first two villains who came out to sing just happen to be two of my favorites, Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog, and the elusive Oogie Boogie from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Maleficent rounds out the trio of Disney villains, but also leads an entourage of additional Disney baddies onto the stage. The show culminates with the show-stopping “I Put a Spell on You,” originally sung by Bette Midler in the film version of Hocus Pocus, and the crowd once again went wild, singing along and enjoying every moment. I was left in awe of the level of performance, costumes, music and effects in the show. I immediately wanted to see it again, and again, and again.
I put together a few highlights from the show to give you a feel of what to expect:
Of course, the rest of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party gave us plenty to do, from the much beloved Mickey’s Boo to You parade, to HalloWishes with its eye (and ear)-popping 360-degree perimeter fireworks – themed to Halloween and villains music, to the candy stops and special snacks and merchandise. One disappointment for me this year was on the snack front. Gone is the pumpkin waffle sundae from Sleepy Hollow, which was my favorite thing to ever eat in Magic Kingdom, as well as a few of the other specialty drinks and snacks. What was left was the candy corn soft serve at Storybook Treats, and a few themed cupcakes. I know cupcakes are easy to make and everyone loves them, and perhaps the pumpkin waffles were not an efficient item for the party, but I still missed them nonetheless. Aside from that, if you are able to get to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this year, I don’t think it will disappoint. I’ll be back soon with another post about the party, but until then, it’s time to run amok, amok, amok, amok!