Catching Up – October 2013

Continued from the last post

October

This was the start of my favorite time of year to visit the WDW theme parks.  We attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival with friends.

For Halloween, Tadd and I dressed up as a wild west saloon girl and bartender.  Tadd had an awesome handlebar mustache to go with this getup, but it just wouldn’t stay on.  So sad!  I honestly didn’t care much for my costume, but wanted to wear it to go with his costume because I loved Tadd in the saloon bartender costume.  He even had a beer holster belt…and of course, the arm garters!

 

2012 Holiday Season at Walt Disney World

Finally getting around to sharing some of the holiday events we attended this year at Walt Disney World.  We did a lot of these events much earlier in the season this year (as in, before Thanksgiving) because crowd levels closer to Christmas can be ridiculous, and it just happened to fit our schedule better.  Being in Florida at Christmastime can tend to not feel very Christmasy, but I love that we make up for it with easy access to these spectacular events and displays.  If you visit Disney at Christmastime, regardless of the weather, there is NO way you don’t come away firmly entrenched in the holiday spirit.  It’s the most festive place I know of this time of year.

Magic Kingdom: Main Street and Castle Dreamlights

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Epcot: Candlelight Processional with Guest Narrator Whoopi Goldberg

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: Victorian decorations and giant gingerbread house

Linking up to a very worthy cause!:

Busy, Busy, Busy

So sorry for my extended absence.  The past week has been insane for me since Election Day.  Wednesday we went to an Orlando Solar Bears hockey game, Thursday we went to Magic Kingdom for the first night of Castle Dreamlights (and we got to see the New Fantasyland again!), Friday I attended a Dove Chocolate Party at my friend’s house, Saturday afternoon our out-of-town guests that we thought were arriving on Sunday night arrived a day early, and Saturday night we saw the band Weezer perform their blue album at Hard Rock Live.  Sunday we went with said houseguests to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and got to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  Whew!  Last night after work, I was ready to just relax with a glass of wine, which is exactly what I did.

Some Instagram pics from our crazy week:

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer

 

Stay tuned for more pics (and maybe even video!) from our Disney holiday adventures so far this year!

 

 

 

The New Fantasyland!

Tadd and I just returned home from a wonderful 3-night “staycation” at Walt Disney World.  After all of the craziness of the past year, including lots of travel, we really felt like we had earned a few days of fun just for us.  More on the staycation later.  Just before we arrived for our stay, Disney decided to open up the much-anticipated New Fantasyland expansion for soft openings, which we were able to take advantage of this morning.

If you live in Central Florida, or are a Disney Parks fan, then you likely are already aware of the well-publicized massive expansion that is currently underway in Fantasyland.  It has been opened in phases, starting with the Storybook Circus section this past July (in the space that was formerly Mickey’s Toontown Fair).  This portion of the expansion contains the new home for twin Dumbo rides, a re-themed Barnstormer mini-coaster, and a Casey Jr. water play area:

 

The portion of the expansion that is in soft opening now is the much larger section that centers around some of Disney’s most popular fairytale films, namely The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast.  As a WDW passholder, I am always excited for new attractions and experiences, so I was thrilled at the chance for a sneak preview of the New Fantasyland.  Since it’s an unannounced soft opening, we weren’t sure what we would find open (if anything at all) as we approached the gates, but we figured we would try and see what might happen.

I just love how the new gates  match and compliment the architecture of nearby Cinderella Castle.

We were thrilled that they let us in!

Our first action was to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.  We passed the gates of what will eventually be the Be Our Guest Restaurant, which is held in Beast’s castle.  It wasn’t open yet, so we just got to see the outside.

Gaston’s Tavern was also closed, but it looks cute.

In the same courtyard is a gift shop…

…and an adorably-themed popcorn cart (you might recall that Maurice was Belle’s father, an eccentric inventor…and apparently he invented this “popping machine”).

I was most excited about getting a chance to ride Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, and it did not disappoint.  It’s an omni-mover dark ride style attraction, similar to other classic attractions like Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan’s Flight.   Continuously-moving ride vehicles take you through various scenes from the movie.  I found it to be adorable and fun.  We actually got off our first ride through and immediately got in line again!  If you love the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid, you will be singing throughout the ride.

We also got to experience Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is an interactive show that takes place partly in Belle’s father Maurice’s cabin and partly in the Beast’s castle.  This is similar to another storytime type show that Belle used to perform on a tiny stage next to the castle, where audience members are chosen to play various parts in the telling of Beauty & the Beast.  But this version is full of special effects and little details that made it SO much better than the original version.  I don’t want to reveal too many details, because not knowing what was coming up next was part of the greatness of this attraction.

There are still construction crews working on the final phase of the expansion, which will be the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster.  Can’t wait until that is finished, although it will probably be a year or more into the future before it opens.

Anniversary weekend.

Celebrated 8 years of marriage this past weekend with a mini-getaway.  We stayed at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort for 1 night, spent the afternoon at the resort’s pool, and then had dinner at the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort with a panoramic view of Magic Kingdom (and a great view of the Wishes fireworks show!).  Wanted to share a few Instagram pics I took.  Enjoy!

 

Singing with Country Bears and Battling Sea Witches!

This past weekend, we met up with friends for an afternoon/evening at the Magic Kingdom.  We had a couple objectives (because when you are a passholder and go as often as we do, a day at Disney World is always more fun when you have objectives and/or you get to try something new).

Objective number one, at the request of one of our friends, was to see the Country Bear Jamboree, a kitschy classic that I think is often overlooked in favor of some of the flashier attractions like Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion.  I think it had been years and years since most of our group had seen it, so we had a great time laughing at the goofy (no pun intended) and weird songs…”Blood on the Saddle”, anyone?

Objective number two was to try the new in-park role playing card game experience, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom!  This game debuted back in February, but this was the first real opportunity we had to give it a try.  The starting point for the game was at the old Fire Station on Main Street USA, where we found these posters encouraging people to give the game a try.

We approached a podium inside the Fire Station, had the attendant scan our park tickets, and were provided with a “key” card, five spell cards, and a special park map highlighting the areas of the park that the game could send us.  The cards are really fun; each one features a different character and a spell that corresponds to the attributes of that character.  I love that so many minor characters are featured.  These spell cards are used to battle the Disney villains, who are trying to take over the park via various “portals”.  These cards are yours to keep, and it’s absolutely free to play!  So even aside from the game itself, it’s like getting a free collectible souvenir.

You can see that each of the cards have different strengths and weaknesses.  Also, some cards are rarer than others.  The tiny star symbol in the lower left hand corner of Eve’s Laser Blast card, above where it says 05/70, denotes that this card is pretty rare.

The first portal for everyone is right in the Fire Station.  The attendant brought us over to it and showed us how we swipe our key card against the lock to activate the portal, which told us which area of the park to start in (Main Street, Fantasyland, Adventureland, or Liberty Square).  We were sent to Fantasyland to battle Ursula!

Once we got to our first real portal, we swiped our key card, and watched the brief video play on the portal.

You can see the oval-shaped portal in this shop window in Fantasyland below.

Sometimes the portal will just advance the storyline a little bit and send you to another portal to continue the game.  Sometimes something happens in the portal that requires you to battle a villain.  If it asks you to do battle, you simply hold up a spell card towards the portal, and the spell that you choose is cast on the villain.

We ended up doing two rounds of the game, and defeated Ursula from The Little Mermaid in Fantasyland and Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove in Adventureland.  And now we have all these fun cards we get to keep!

I always love when Disney adds these types of experiences into the theme parks.  It adds a new layer to our park adventures, allows us to try something new and different, and best of all, it’s free!

Instagram Link Party: Orlando Staycation

Tadd and I had plans to go to Hilton Head Island, SC this past weekend.  Unfortunately, they had to be canceled due to a family emergency that required us to stay closer to home, just in case we found out we had to leave town quickly.  We decided to make the best of it and our romantic weekend getaway turned into a last-minute “staycation” in the Orlando area.

We booked an inexpensive room via Priceline.com‘s name-your-own price feature and spent two nights staying very close to Walt Disney World property.  When we checked into our hotel, we really had no plans aside from dinner Saturday night at Il Mulino at the Walt Disney Swan Resort.  We were just going to play it by ear, and have a fun, relaxing weekend away from the stress of life, and focused just on each other.

We wound up in Downtown Disney Friday night.  Dinner at Paradiso 37 (which was better than I thought it would be!), followed by desserts from Goofy’s Candy Company.  They have this create-your-own treat thing, where you fill out a form and choose an item (apple, rice krispie treat, marshmallows, pretzel rods, or ginger bread cookie), then you choose to dip it in white, dark, or milk chocolate, then choose a candy topping (M&Ms, Oreos, peanuts, Reese’s Pieces, etc), then you choose a chocolate drizzle for the top.  It used to be that the marshmallow option was only $2.95 so it was a great bargain, because when they were done being dipped in everything they were enormous and they presented them to you skewered on a Mickey head crazy straw that you could keep.  Now they are $4.95…Not a bargain, but still a generally affordable treat.  We got ours to go and brought them back to the hotel room.  On the way out of Downtown Disney, we decided randomly to stop by guest relations and make reservations for the Sunday morning Keys to the Kingdom tour at Magic Kingdom.

Saturday we really weren’t sure what to do, but in the end decided to go to the Premiere Outlets where Tadd got some new bright green hi-top chucks at the Converse store (they are awesome…I need to get a picture of them), and I almost got something on clearance from the Coach Outlet, but ended up with a new Vera Bradley bag that I adore (an angled tote in Baroque), plus some extra stuff for gifts (everything in the VB Outlet was buy 2 get 1 free).  Then we set off to Celebration, FL for an afternoon of lunch at Celebration Town Tavern (which made me homesick for Boston), relaxing by the lake, Starbucks, and getting Tadd’s hair cut at a charming little place called S. Todd Esq, Barber!  We made so many Sweeney Todd jokes before and after the haircut…could not resist!

Saturday night, we had reservations for dinner at Il Mulino for that evening, so we went back to the hotel room, got gussied up a bit, and drove over to the Swan & Dolphin Resort near Epcot (refered to by locals as the Swolphin).  Il Mulino gets somewhat mixed reviews on Yelp and other places, but I have to say that we had a fabulous dinner!  They won us over with all the little extra surprises that added to the experience, including an appetizer of thinly sliced Italian sausage and eggplant caponata provided to us “compliments of the chef”, a tiny bottle of Rosa Regale included with our special Valentine’s Day dessert, and concluding the meal with a complimentary limoncello.  We had a head waiter & assistant waiter doting on us, and the manager came over twice to make sure we were happy.  These little extras really made our dinner special!  We felt like royalty.

We were thinking about walking over to Epcot for Illuminations after dinner, but when we left the restaurant, it was getting cold (and I had bare legs in a dress & heels!) and we had about 10 minutes before they started.  So we decided to go to the bridge between Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and Boardwalk Resort, and watch the fireworks over the treeline.  We were almost completely alone, huddled together in the cold, with a great view, and it turned out to be a very romantic moment.  I’m so glad we decided to stop there instead of rushing all the way into the crowded theme park for the show.

Sunday morning, we woke up bright and early, checked out of our room, and headed over to the Magic Kingdom for our 9AM Keys to the Kingdom tour.  Wow, was it cold!  I think it was 33F when we left our hotel.  We arrived at the gates of the park just after 8:30, and because of our tour, were allowed into the park before the masses.  Getting to see Main Street Town Square totally empty was a treat!

We had a fabulous time on our five hour tour, which included lots of history, trivia, VIP front-of-the-line guided access to a couple major attractions, and we were also allowed backstage to see how the park is run from behind-the-scenes.  It also included lunch at Columbia Harbor House.

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the tour, since part of the fun is not really knowing what you will see next, but if this kind of thing interests you, then I definitely recommend it!  Our tour guide was Robert, who was a lot of fun, enthusiastic, and very sweet.  The tour brought back a lot of happy memories for Tadd, who was a WDW cast member about 12 years ago.  We both really, really enjoyed it.

Thus ended our impromptu romantic staycation weekend.  I am sad that we didn’t get to go to Hilton Head, but we still had a great time together and made some special memories.  Valentine’s Day is important to us because it’s the anniversary of the day Tadd asked me to marry him, so we always try to do something to celebrate.  I think our weekend was more than befitting of the occasion.

This post is linked to the weekly Instagram link party over at a {little} dash of ash!

Instagram Link Party: Magic Kingdom is just better at night!

Ok, I will admit that I am sad about my Patriots’ loss last night, but will thank them for a great season.  Now let’s all move on ahead to baseball season, huh?  Go Sox!

Anyways, early Saturday evening we met up with a group of friends for a lovely night at Magic Kingdom.  The park was open until midnight, but the fireworks were at 8, which is always a great sign that between 8 and midnight, the park will be uncrowded, very comfortable (we had gorgeous weather!), and much more enjoyable.  And luckily, that is exactly what happened!  Maybe it really was the lack of crowds and great weather, but to me Magic Kingdom is always more fun at night.  Between 4pm and 11pm, we were able to do Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, Peoplemover, Philharmagic, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Winnie The Pooh, and Buzz Lightyear SRS.  And that timeframe also included dinner, and the fireworks show.  And we were touring at what I would say was a very leisurely pace!  When we go during the day, we are lucky if we get half that much done (and we have to deal with heat & crowds).  I think I am sold on nighttime-only when going to MK from now on!

This post is linked up with the weekly Instagram Link Party over at a {little} dash of ash!

Instagram Link Party: A little weekend fun at WDW.

I have started sewing!  Tadd set up my new machine last night (a temporary set up until I can clear out the room that will eventually be my crafting/sewing/girl cave room).  I am working on some pillows for our living room for my first project, but I want to wait until I am closer to being finished before I show you.  It’s not terrible for my very first sewing project, but I am assuming I am going to get better over time.  I hope…

I did want to share a few Instagram shots from Saturday afternoon.  We spent a little time with some friends at Magic Kingdom.  Believe it or not, all of the holiday decorations were still up!  On January 7th!  They had Christmas music playing and everything.  I am the type of person where once Christmas is over, I want it gone!  I love everything about it in December, but once January hits, I just want to move on with life.  So I just tried to ignore it.  But I do admit that as we were leaving, walking up Main Street with the huge tree twinkling and the garlands hung above the street and the music, it ALMOST got me back into the holiday spirit.

Anyways, we mostly stayed in the Frontierland/Adventureland/Liberty Square side of the park.  We stuck with the classics, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion.  The weather was beautiful, but the park was extremely crowded due to the fact that it was Disney’s Marathon Weekend.

Linking up with a {little} dash of ash’s weekly Instagram Link Party!

Instagram Link Party: Christmastime at the Magic Kingdom

Warning.  This might be a mushy post.

Even after all these years, my husband is so sweet to me.  I am a lucky girl.  He told me earlier last week in the midst of some super-intense brand new video game release anticipation (Anyone else here a Skyrim widow?) that Saturday was all mine to choose for the two of us to do whatever I wanted.  We had been in need of spending some quality time together, and I decided I wanted to spend Saturday night getting into the holiday spirit a bit.

So we spent a very romantic evening at the Magic Kingdom, checking out the decorations on Main Street and watching the special nighttime shows that celebrate the holidays; Cinderella’s Holiday Wish (with Castle Dreamlights), and the brand new holiday version of The Magic, The Memories, and You.

This is one of the things I love about being a Walt Disney World passholder and being able to go back as many times as we want…We didn’t even leave Main Street at all!  We took the ferry over from the Transportation & Ticket Center, and arrived at the park sometime between 4:30 and 5pm.  We wandered around Town Square, just taking in all of the holiday decorations and enjoying the sights, then we walked up the left side of Main Street, looking at all of the beautiful display windows.

We stopped at the Main Street Bakery and got ourselves a brownie and some coffee and then found a cafe table on the railing across from the entrance to the Plaza Restaurant, with a perfect, unobstructed view of Cinderella Castle.  As darkness fell, there was a bit of a chill in the air, so we put on some sweatshirts I brought, and settled in to enjoy the evening.  We sat at that table and talked literally for hours about all kinds of things, both important and unimportant.  We talked about heavy stuff and stuff that made us giggle.  It was the kind of night that reaffirmed for me that I indeed picked the right man as my husband.  We enjoyed the sights, the sounds, the beautiful cool weather, and we just really enjoyed spending time with each other.

And in between our conversations, we were entertained in a spectacular fashion as only Disney can do.  Magic Kingdom is always at its best during the holidays, and a few years ago they started an amazing new tradition, blanketing the castle with thousands of white icicle lights, called Castle Dreamlights.  It’s one of those things that is so simple in theory and design, but the visual payoff is stunning.  Each night, just after it gets dark, there is a cute little show at the Castle Forecourt Stage to kick off lighting the Castle Dreamlights, with Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto.  Tadd took some video of the show, but of course the video doesn’t really do it much justice.

I was particularly excited about seeing the holiday version of The Magic, The Memories, and You.  This is another case of a show that defies description or video…You just have to see it in person to get the full effect.  The show is based on projecting images and photos and video onto the castle itself.  These projections are very rich and complex, and almost look real.  The projections can make the castle look two dimensional, like it has been hand-sketched on a sheet of paper, or it can make it look like bricks are exploding off of the castle, or it can change the roof colors of each of the spires (and not just using colored light…it actually looks like the roof has been PAINTED different colors for a few seconds).  It’s incredible to see!  This was my fourth time seeing it and it still gives me goosebumps.  We didn’t take video of this one, just because I really wanted us to be able to just enjoy it.  But I’m sure you can find other YouTube videos of the show if you want to see what I’m talking about.  The holiday version starts and ends the same as the regular show, but halfway through there is a little Christmas-themed section where, among other things, they turn the castle into a giant gingerbread house, a candy-cane castle, and one very effective scene where it looks like the whole castle has been strung with regular residential blinking Christmas lights (which made me think of Osborne Lights over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which we will be seeing in just a few weeks!).

Also, all of the other times we had seen this show, we saw it from the hub, very close to the castle itself.  We found that being a bit further away from the castle offered a very different view of the show.  There were things I noticed this time that I hadn’t ever noticed before, which I found really cool!  I don’t know if it’s necessarily better to be close or further away, I just think if you have seen it one way, then see it again the other way for a totally different experience.

Anyways, we had a lovely evening together and I am now in the holiday spirit more than ever.  I am so ready to enjoy my favorite time of year!

Linking up this post with the weekly Instagram link party over at a {little} dash of ash!