Events

Keeping Kids Busy at Flower and Garden

by on March 29, 2016

Some kids may enjoy everything that Epcot’s International Flower and Garden festival has to offer. For others, it may be as exciting as, well, watching grass grow. There are some activities that are generally enjoyed by kids of all ages, whether they are fans of plants or not. Here are some of the best.

musicplaygroundMusic Garden Melodies Playground

Kids (and the makers of migraine medicine) will love this playground located around the corner from the Imagination pavilion. Topiaries of Mickey and friends welcome you to this delightful play area. The playground is divided into two sections: a rope web climbing structure for ages 5-12 and a more traditional playground set for 5 and under. Both are under shade, and there are chairs and little “cabanas” for adults to relax under. Around the center between the two play areas are large musical interactive features for kids to bang on and make “beautiful music”.  Around the outside are several small gardens with plants themed to different types of musical instruments, providing adults something to do while the kids play.

cactusalleyCars Cactus Road Rally Playground

Another playground returning for this year is the Cars Cactus Road Rally Playground, located between Mouse Gear and Test Track. In addition to the cacti growing all along the paths in the area, there are informative signs to learn how cacti adapt to their environment. But the big draw for the kids is the playground area. The area is also shaded and there is some seating, but it is a much smaller area than the other playground. A typical playground climbing structure is there, but kids also will enjoy bouncing on the circle of tires located near the back of the play area. Make sure to take a look at the Lightning McQueen and Mater topiaries near by as well.

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Flower and Garden Festival Merchandise

by on March 23, 2016

 

merchoverviewEpcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing, and while there’s plenty of green to look at, there’s also a lot of ways to spend green–on festival merchandise.

This year, I’ve been very pleased with the merchandise I’ve seen. I personally think the designs are better than previous years, and of course having Figment on many items is a huge plus for me.

Merchandise is available at the stores along the way to World Showcase and at locations around World Showcase Lagoon, plus in the Festival Center on weekends. Here are some of my favorites for this year.

 

 

 

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Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Gardens (Part 2)

by on March 16, 2016

The first part of this series (which you can read here) showed some of the myriad gardens found throughout Future World during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. There’s still plenty of other gardens found in World Showcase as well. Here are some sights from the exhibits scattered around near the different pavilions.

 

Shakespeare Garden

The Bard of Avon used imagery of plants throughout his plays and sonnets. Some plants mentioned in his works are featured here, along with a bust of Shakespeare himself.

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Teacup Gardens

Teas and tisanes are a favorite use for plants around the world. These oversized teacups are planted with blends that would make the perfect cup, whether served hot or iced.

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Spring Dapper Day at Walt Disney World

by on March 15, 2016

Let me start by saying that I am a Tom-girl, a country girl, or a self identified frump.  I like wearing jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and tennis shoes.  You won’t often find me in a dress or skirt; and if you do it is probably for a wedding or a funeral.  I don’t do make-up and my hair skills are very limited.  A quick run through with my fingers or a ponytail suits me just fine.  That being said, even this Tom-girl has day dreams of a softer side.  I dream of breaking the mold I have built for myself; wearing cute little skirts, having a perfectly curled up-do, and being able to create magic with eye shadow and mascara.  I dream of being dapper.

Being dapper is defined as having a neat and trim appearance or being very spruce and stylish.  Both men and women can be dapper.  It usually describes clothing that is attractive and of high quality.  It makes me think of years gone by when men and women were sharply dressed anytime they left their house.  I romanticize of a more innocent world where men were gentlemanly and women had that air of innocence and mystery.  I think of Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino.  Even Walt Disney has appeared quite dapper in several old photos I have seen.

In the everyday world I live in there is not much room for being dapper.  Leaving the house usually entails work clothes of some sort, not fashion.  It simply is not normal in my neck of the woods.  So, I am a product of my surroundings, left to merely dream of the day I can be more.  And more I will be.  This coming April 16th at the Magic Kingdom, I will get my chance to be stylish and sophisticated.  I will fit right in at Dapper Day.

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Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Gardens (Part 1)

by on March 15, 2016

At Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, plant features such as the variety of topiaries and the almost-blindingly colorful flower carpets along the water tend to be the most popular to view and photograph. But throughout Future World and World Showcase, there’s a variety of small specialty gardens that are worth exploring. Here are some that you can find this year.

 

Pollinator Paradise

This garden features a variety of plants loved by creatures that help collect and move pollen including bees, birds, bats, and snails. The garden also has plant-based sculptures of pollinators.

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Health and Healing

Many medicines that we rely on today come from plant sources, and many plants can be used medicinally. This garden features sections for traditional medicines and other plants that help keep us healthy.

healing

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Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival Preview

by on March 15, 2016

All photos courtesy NPS

All photos courtesy NPS

Millions of travelers visit Washington, D.C. every year, but far and away the busiest period is the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which is coming up later this month. Here’s a quick look at the festival and what it’s all about:

When Is The Cherry Blossom Festival?

There’s a simple and a complex answer for this. The easy one is that the official dates of the National Cherry Blossom Festival are March 20 through April 17, 2016.

And here comes the tricky part: The actual blooming of the Cherry Blossom trees is highly variable and dependent on weather. The mild winter and warm spring this year mean that the trees are expected to flower earlier than they have in 15 years. Specifically, March 18 is the date of “Peak Bloom.” The National Park Service considers the bloom to be “peak” when 70 percent of the trees are flowering.

The reason the peak bloom date is important is because the pesky Cherry Blossom trees only bloom for 4-5 days. If you’re putting that math together, that means that this year the peak bloom will just barely last into the start of the official festival. Luckily not all the trees bloom at exactly the same time so there will still be some flowering into April, but the end of this year’s festival may not see many blooming blossoms.

What’s The Story Behind These Trees?

I’ve mentioned the Cherry Blossoms a lot, but it’s probably a good idea to brush on what they are and why we make such a big deal over them.

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runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend Sees Major Changes

by on March 11, 2016

Wine and Dine Half Marathon

©Rikki Niblett

Last year, was my first year running the Wine and Dine (Half) Half Marathon. It was an interesting experience (especially since they halved the race due to weather, so I only had to run 7 miles, instead of 13), but what makes it more interesting is that it was also the last time, it appears that this race would be run at night.

You see, today, Disney has announced that they have made some major changes to the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend. The first change being that the Wine and Dine Half Marathon will now be run in the morning, just like the other runDisney races currently are. The Wine and Dine will now take place on Sunday, November 6.

But I know what you’re thinking…what about the after race party that took place following the race? Well, the good news is that the Post Race Party will take place Sunday evening for those who ran the Half Marathon at the Epcot to celebrate the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, with the evening finishing with exclusive runner access during the later hours. After experiencing the Wine and Dine, I can say that this is a good change because after running last year, with how late it was by the time I finished, I wanted nothing more than to just go to sleep; I had zero energy to head back into Epcot to party. It will be nice for those running to actually be able to ENJOY the party.

But wait! That’s not all! Those aren’t the only changes occurring with this race weekend!  The popular holiday-themed 5K called Mickey’s Holiday 5k, will now be moving to Friday morning, November 4. In addition, the weekend will now include the first-ever Disney Wine & Dine 10K on Saturday, November 5 with Chef Remy as the host.

Of course, with a 10K added to the Half Marathon Weekend, this also means that Wine and Dine Weekend is now a Challenge Weekend. For those who run both the 10K and the Half, you will therefore be participating in Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge where runners will receive two inaugural finisher medals as well as the half marathon medal!

This race weekend just got even better! I know I’m excited!

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, March 10, 2016: Springtime in Epcot

by on March 10, 2016

 

A topiary representation of me in spring.

A topiary representation of me in spring.

If you have seasonal allergies, you may have a love-hate relationship with spring. When I lived up north, I was thrilled to feel the warmer temperatures and know that snow shoveling season was ending. Of course that meant cars covered with yellow pollen, itchy and watery eyes, and sneezing, but it is a small price to pay for warmth again.

In Florida, where seasonal differences are more subtle, sometimes it is nice to have a reminder of the awesomeness that is spring. For me, the biggest reminder of spring is Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival. As soon as it opens, that’s where you’ll find me.

Opening weekend for Flower and Garden also was opening weekend for Epcot’s Easter Egg hunt. We had a blast doing it last year, so we knew we wanted to do it this year as well. It seems the word has gotten out about this fun event, as it took about 10 minutes in line to get our map.

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The map also comes with stickers that look like the giant eggs hidden around World Showcase. Simply walk to a country, find the hidden egg, put the correct sticker on the map, and take the completed map back to the redemption center for a souvenir character egg.

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An Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Primer

by on February 23, 2016

The groundhog has spoken, and spring is on the way. Time to think of birds singing and flowers blooming. (And maybe restocking allergy supplies…)

It also is time to start planning for the Epcot International Flower and Garden festival. Now in its 23rd year, this annual event has brought a splash of color and new life to the Epcot resort. This year, the festival will run from March 2 through May 30, 2016. Whether this is your first visit or you’re an old pro, here’s some hints to help make the most of your visit.

Passport

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Be sure to pick up a festival passport from the festival center or from select gift shop or food booth locations. In addition to having menus of the food booths, locations of topiaries, and a list of concert performers, the passport also contains information about the festival and makes a lovely (and free) souvenir. At each location in the passport, you can stop by and get a special stamp.

Garden Rocks Concerts

In the evenings from Friday through Sunday, Epcot comes alive with the sounds of some famous musicians in the Garden Rocks concert series. The concerts are offered three times a night at The American Adventure pavilion’s American Gardens Theater.

This year will include some newcomers to the festival with performances by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Brian Howe (Bad Company), Georgia Satellites, and Darlene Love. Also returning are favorites like Starship, Herman’s Hermits, Village People, and Gin Blossoms, among others. You’ll want to arrive early if you want a good seat in the American Gardens Theater, but you can also enjoy hearing the music from the outdoor areas around The American Adventure pavilion.

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The Basics: Using the Crowd Calendar to Decide When to Visit Disney World

by on February 10, 2016

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

Are you planning a vacation to Disney World? Wouldn’t it be cool to just pick up and go right now? In my mind, I’m there already with nothing to do to but have fun. Unfortunately, a reality check reminds me that we all have jobs, many need to consider school schedules, and finances and budgets need to be in order. Given all of these considerations, how can you possibly make an informed decision about the best time for your Disney World trip?

Well, today is your lucky day because this article focuses on TouringPlans.com’s Disney World Crowd Calendar, a powerful tool designed to help you make a decision about when to go so that you spend the least amount of time in line. Plus, see a handy summary of how specific holidays and Disney World special events affect how much time you’ll be in line.

[Even more luck! If you are planning a trip to Disneyland or Universal Orlando—TouringPlans provides Crowd Calendars for these destinations too.]

© Sarah Graffam

© Sarah Graffam

How will the crowds be during your Disney World visit? Use TouringPlans.com’s Crowd Calendar to pick the best week for your vacation.

Deciding When to Go: First Considerations

First and foremost, as with any trip, there are two basic factors that are crucial to deciding when to go to Disney World and that provide the context for using the TouringPlans Crowd Calendar. These are: (1) when you can afford to go and (2) when your schedule allows you to go.

In terms of when you can afford to go, maybe your goal is to save up first, or you are expecting a work bonus to put toward vacation, or your budget will be a bit more flexible once that car loan is paid off. As for schedule, you likely need to work around school vacations, a project at work, or family obligations.

Another potential factor is Disney World’s schedule. Is there a special event or time of year you would like to visit? Is it a must-do or just a bonus if it lines up with your other best times for vacation? Also keep in mind that peak crowds bring peak prices at Disney World resorts.

Considering these factors is bound to narrow down the time when you will take your vacation, and this is when TouringPlans’ Crowd Calendar can become an integral part of deciding when to go. Matching up all of these factors—budget, schedule, and what you’d like to experience at Disney World—with the Crowd Calendar is an excellent way to pick the best week for your vacation.

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