New Force Awakens footage is featured in Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Star Wars Episode VII doesn’t open until next month, but the Force is already awake inside the Star Tours ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unlike Disneyland, Walt Disney World won’t debut the Seasons of the Force special event (which replaces the long-running Star Wars Weekends) until January 5 (Launch Bay with displays and character greetings opens December 1), but one element of the event is already having its “soft opening” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As of November 16, new Force Awakens footage has been added to DHS’s Star Tours attraction, and we were there on the first day to experience the changes.
Disney World has truly spectacular offerings during the holiday season.
It’s no secret that I dress for success when I plan my outfit choices in Walt Disney World – no detail is left out. While this usually refers to some light DisneyBounding, it means something a little different in December, when a cute dress and Mickey ears isn’t enough to get you through the cold evenings in the parks. Thanks to the fantastic holiday offerings, December is one of the most exciting times to visit Disney World. You’ve got Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), Epcot’s Candlelight Processional, and Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. On top of that, the resorts and parks are decked out in their holiday finest, so even if you don’t want to spring for the extra cost of a party ticket to MVMCP, you can still enjoy the ambiance during the day. Just make sure, as you’re planning for your holiday trip, to give serious consideration to the weather. As unlikely as it sounds, Florida gets COLD at night in December!
I know what you might be thinking, “I’m from [insert cold state here — mine is Michigan]; Florida doesn’t even know what cold is! I walk eight miles uphill both ways through six feet of snow just to get to the Disney Store!” Okay, that might not be exactly what you thought, but it is pretty close to my viewpoint on the subject before my first December trip. Luckily, I followed the advice of others and (even though I scoffed) I packed for the cold weather. And thank goodness I did! Based on that experience, I’m going to give you a breakdown of my 5 must-pack items for cold weather, some tips specific to nighttime holiday entertainment options, and a few final pieces of advice so you can dress for success on your holiday adventures in Disney World!
When I arrived at noon, Epcot appeared quite a bit busier than you might hope a weekday in early November would be. Welcome to Jersey Week! Thanks to teachers’ conferences in New Jersey, wait times were jacked up throughout the park, with Spaceship Earth posting a 35 minute standby queue as I entered.
Hidden around Epcot’s World Showcase during the International Food and Wine Festival, you’ll find more than just booths with food and drink—you’ll find rats. But don’t worry, these aren’t your ordinary rats. It’s Remy, from the Disney movie Ratatouille. He’s decided to make his signature dish and is scouring ingredients from around World Showcase. Even better, he needs your help for a game of “Hide and Squeak”.
Available at select gift shops in Epcot (such as Pin Central and the Port of Entry), you can purchase a map with stickers for $7.95, similar to the kind available during the Epcot Easter Egg hunt in the spring. As you travel around World Showcase, look for Remy hiding somewhere in each location noted on the map. (For a hint, because he’s searching for food, you’ll usually find him somewhere near a food booth.) As you find him, see what ingredient he’s obtaining at each location and use the corresponding sticker on your map. When you are finished with your grand tour, take the completed map back to the Port of Entry and receive one of six commemorative pins featuring Remy and one of the ingredients.
As we were playing this game, we did find that some of the hidden Remy locations were more tricky than others, and so it may be challenging for a young child to do completely alone—but it is a great game for families or even for adults. To add another layer to the game, most of the ingredients are aligned in some way with the country in which you find them or the food being served at the booth. We had the most fun trying to predict what ingredients we would be looking for in each country. (Proud to say, I got more right than my husband!)
Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom isn’t the only place in Walt Disney World to score a French breakfast these days. The Parisian Breakfast has returned to Les Chefs de France restaurant in Epcot. Even though this is the 20th Anniversary of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, it’s only the third year for the Parisian Breakfast, an event that takes place every Saturday through November 14.
At $39 per person, plus tax (gratuity included, park admission required but not included), the Parisian Breakfast is one of the least expensive special event meals of the festival. The menu includes fresh pastries, just-baked baguettes, brioches, croissants (they had me at baguettes), unlimited coffee, tea, cappuccino, cafe au lait, chocolat chaud (French-style hot chocolate,) orange juice, and mimosas.
Here’s what I experienced this year:
We arrived at Epcot at 8:20 a.m. After bag check we headed to the right — past the lines of guests waiting to enter the park — an straight toward a sign marked “Breakfast Reservations Entrance.” The Cast Member near the breakfast entrance had our names on a list on her iPad and there was no line to speak of. We scanned our MagicBands and walked toward Spaceship Earth and into an empty Future World. We had plenty of time for great photos with Epcot all to ourselves.
Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival survived its first weekend, although reports of massive crowds and long lines filled social media. If you are going to Food and Wine and can go for a lunch around the world instead of dinner and go on a weekday instead of a weekend, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. Following up on some new or “not seen in a few years” foods that I covered last week, here’s some more new offerings for this year.
NEW BOOTH: Sustainable Chew
Pork Spareribs with Red Wine, Fennel, and Cheesy Mascarpone Grits (GF) ($5.50)
Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (V) ($4.75)
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs and Pistachio Brittle (GF) ($4.25)
Pork spareribs, vanilla panna cotta, and ravioli from Sustainable Chew. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)
I suppose it isn’t a good sign for a review when all I want to write about are the plates that the food came on. The VerTerra dinnerware is simply fantastic, however. According to VerTerra, the dinnerware is made from fallen palm leaves and water. But not only are these plates environmentally friendly, they also look wonderful and are much more sturdy than what you’d expect from a food booth.
On to the food, though. Unlike the Chew Lab, which had some unique techniques for the food, the foods here are prepared in fairly standard ways, with the emphasis on sustainable resources. I’m all for sustainability, and so I wish I could tell you that the food here was the best at the festival. Sadly, most of the food was disappointing.
After braving the outlets, I found myself once again shopping this week–but this time looking at what is offered at the 2015 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. With this being the 20th anniversary of Food and Wine, I had some high hopes that the merchandise would be worth purchasing.
First things first, while the Festival Center is the place that has the most merchandise available, it is not the only location to purchase festival goods. In the area between Future World and World Showcase, every store sells some Food and Wine merchandise. Even items like the Dooney and Bourke bags are available for sale in Mouse Gear. So if you find that the Festival Center lines are long, you have many other options.
Glassware and Plates
It is no surprise that Food and Wine has a lot of items for the kitchen. Among the most popular are the Tervis cup that looks like it has a wineglass inside, the trash can-design salt and pepper shakers, and official wine glasses and plates.
Now celebrating its 20th year, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival has many long-time fan favorite foods, but also prides itself on bringing new taste experiences each fall. Sometimes this is done with the creation of new booths and other times it is a matter of replacing items at booths from year to year. This year, there are multiple new booths and more than a dozen new items at booths brought back from previous years. Here are some of the new items and one of the new booths that you can find this year.