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Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package Coming to the Magic Kingdom

by on September 13, 2016 2 Comments



Beginning on October 10, a brand new dining package will be introduced in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package at the Magic Kingdom. Guests will be able to receive a prix fixe lunch at Tony’s Town Square, then at the end of their meal, they will receive a voucher to experience the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade in a a reserved viewing location right in front of the flagpole on Main Street U.S.A.

Guests choosing this option can enjoy a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage) from the standard lunch menu at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant as part of this package. The dining package is $45 for adults and $17 for children (ages 3-9), plus tax and gratuity. For those on the Disney Dining Plan, this option will cost one table-service entitlement.

This dining option is replacing the recently introduced Main Street Electrical Parade Dining Package, since this parade will be leaving the park in October. The last day Guests can book the Main Street Electrical Parade Dining Package through October 9.

Guests can book this option by calling 407-WDW-DINE.


A Parent’s Guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on September 13, 2016 5 Comments

2016-09-02 20.39.46Before school had started in some states, Disney was already ringing in the Halloween season with the 2016 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (often referred to by the unpronounceable MNSSHP). My husband and I had gone once in our child-free years, but with our daughter now six years old, we thought this would be the perfect time for a repeat of the party. In the end, it was a marvelous time for us, but we saw a number of families who were having a less than magical experience. Here’s some tips to make the evening truly not so scary.


Pick a Date that Works with Your Schedule

Staying up until midnight on a school night is not the best option for younger children. For this reason, we chose a Friday night leading into the Labor Day holiday weekend. (There are no Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties on Saturday nights.) This meant that our daughter was in school that day, and we had her take an hour of “attempted nap” between school and heading for the party. If you’re on vacation, you may want to skip visiting the parks altogether on your party night. At the very least, you’ll want to take most of the afternoon for down time to have your best shot at making it through the whole party with everyone in good spirits.

Dress Sensibly

It is perfectly acceptable to go to the party without wearing a costume, or just wearing a Halloween-themed t-shirt. For some people, wearing a costume is part of the experience. Hurricane Hermine had pushed through the state less than 24 hours before our party, and thankfully we had selected costumes that could be scaled back for the possibility of rain. Knowing the weather in early September in Florida trends towards hot, we also made sure our costumes would be comfortable in 90-90 weather (90 degree heat, 90% humidity). In the end, we were able to keep a bare minimum of our costume intact and get huge amounts of laughs and love for our simple costume idea. We went as a game of Duck, Duck, Goose basically by two of us wearing white shirts with large wooden signs around our neck saying DUCK (with a small duck figurine) and one wearing a white shirt with a sign saying GOOSE (with a small goose figurine).

On the flip side, I saw many families wearing heavy, bulky, and downright uncomfortable costumes–or having their children dressed up in costumes that had no breathability. The heat and humidity will sap your energy faster than anything. Think about your costume choices as if you were going to run a race in it. How will it look and feel when hot and sweaty? Those cute specialty shoes with the costume might be great for going around the block, but how will they feel after putting on several miles of walking? If you must have a certain costume for some of the experience, consider bringing a change of clothes and renting a locker. Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Picks for the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by on September 13, 2016 5 Comments

It’s almost Christmas… well, *my* Christmas. Epcot International Food and Wine Festival opening day is quickly approaching, and it’s time to start strategizing how to tackle all of the great eats during your trip around the World (Showcase). To do that, I’ve made “quick pick” lists full of my favorites from past years in a few categories: classics (great for festival first-timers), dishes that are great for families with kids or picky eaters, dishes for adventurous eaters, vegetarian picks (that even carnivores will love), and of course, a few drinks. I’ve included new picks in some of the categories that I’m looking forward to, and also some tips and tricks for making the most of your time (and finding the shortest lines!) at the festival booths.

Classics for first-time Food & Wine Festival visitors

  • Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Kalua pork slider (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Hawai’i: Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayo

This booth’s menu rarely changes because it’s always consistently good. Definitely stop here early in the day, as it is one of the first booths in World Showcase and lines grow quickly.

  • Australia: grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies

Great walk-around finger food to enjoy while strolling Epcot. Only a few bites, but the potato chip crunchies make this a fun take on a classic dish.

  • Hops & Barley: New England lobster roll

A consistent favorite, usually heavy on the lobster and served on a heavenly butter-grilled bun

  • Farm Fresh: Loaded Mac & Cheese with pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, and peppers

Who doesn’t like mac & cheese, especially when it has bacon and other toppings? This can be a lighter portion, but one that nearly everyone will enjoy

  • Belgium: beer-braised beef with smoked gouda mashed potatoes

The beer-braised beef returns this year with a new presentation (no more potato leek waffle). This booth can be a little slow, depending on how many are ordering sweet waffles (made to order), but it’s worth the wait for this dish.

  • Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Liquid Nitrogen Chocolate Almond Truffle (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

    Mexico: Mexican chocolate flan

Mexico is always a must-stop for desserts for me – every year they make something slightly different, but always tasty, and this flan is sure to fit that pattern. A great stop for the very end of the night, when this always-busy booth’s line tends to be shorter.

  • Chocolate Studio: liquid nitrogen chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey caramel

This dish debuted last year and became an instant classic for pretty much everyone. It’s usually rich enough to share, and it’s always a blast to watch them freeze the truffles to order.

Perfect bites for families with kids or “picky eaters”

  • Germany: Schinkennudeln (baked mac and cheese with ham)

Again, who doesn’t like mac & cheese? This rich dish is a variation of the baked mac and cheese found inside Biergarten, and it is just ridiculously heavenly. A good stop if you are worried Farm Fresh’s version is too veggie-heavy, and usually a pretty quick line.

  • Brazil: Crispy pork belly with black beans and tomato

Most kids love bacon, and this is exactly that, just with the addition of a nice stew of black bean and tomato. Full of savory flavor, this dish will be a winner for many, and bonus – there’s a really cool seating area at this booth, too! Read the rest of this entry »

Finding the Sherman Brothers in Disney Parks – Part One

by on September 12, 2016 6 Comments

If you are a fan of Disney parks, then you are a fan of the Sherman Brothers. You may not even realize it, but I can guarantee this to be true. The song writing team of Robert Sherman and younger brother, Richard Sherman, have combined to write more motion picture musical scores than any other song writing team in history. In addition to their motion picture work, the brothers served as staff writers for Walt Disney Studios.

Photo - Disney

Photo – Disney

The Sherman Brothers are responsible for many of the Disney songs you grew up singing, as well as the music you can’t stop humming when you leave the theme parks. Like most supremely talented artists their story is complex; creative geniuses in their field, but a lifetime of personal struggles in their relationship with one another. For our purpose today, we are focusing on their positive and prolific influence inside the Disney parks. What better place to start then the song that never ends? Read the rest of this entry »

Dine or Dash? Epcot’s Food and Wine Booths (Part 3)

by on September 12, 2016 2 Comments

Some say that bad things happen in threes, but I’m a mojito-glass-half-full kind of person. When it comes to booths at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, a review in three parts is far better than one. So it is with great irony that I start off with the booth that has the one food I will absolutely positively not be eating at Food and Wine. (Oh, and if you missed part 1 or part 2, feel free to catch up before diving into this one.)

*Indicates item returning from last year.


  • Grilled Spicy Edamame tossed with Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, and Chili Powder
  • Spicy Sushi Roll: Tuna and Salmon with Kazan Volcano Sauce
  • Marinated Shrimp sautéed with Garlic and Butter, Served Over Rice

I’m very fortunate that I have outgrown many of the food allergies I had as a child, but one still causes me an anaphylaxis reaction–concentrated amounts of soy, like those found in tofu or in edamame. As a result, because I value my life, I’ll be skipping the Grilled Spicy Edamame. I know my husband will be more than willing to take one for the team and try it, as this sounds like a great snack option. I’ll likely skip the sushi roll–if I want sushi, there’s so many good options at Walt Disney World to have a seat for a full sushi meal. On the other hand, I’m excited about the shrimp dish. My only hope is that the shrimp will have the tails already removed, so I can chow down without having to juggle a knife and fork.



  • Barbacoa Enchilada: Corn Tortilla filled with Beef Barbacoa, covered with Oaxaca Mole
  • Taco de Camaron: Battered Shrimp served over a Flour Tortilla with Crispy Purple Cabbage and Chipotle Mayonnaise (Pictured, but slightly changed this year)
  • Flan de Chocolate Abuelita Read the rest of this entry »

SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways Disney’s AbracadaBar Has Us Under Its Spell

by on September 10, 2016 9 Comments

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney’s AbracadaBar Has Us Under Its Spell. With the Flying Fish recently receiving a lengthy refurbishment and a completely new look, ESPN Club getting a major menu upgrade, and the debut of Ample Hills Creamery (serving some of the best ice cream on property), Disney’s BoardWalk area is now better than it has ever been. However, another new addition to the area may actually be the best improvement of all, the AbracadaBar.


AbracadaBar at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.

Following the trend set by Sam’s Grog Grotto, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and Nomad Lounge, AbracadaBar is an extremely well themed bar, with an elaborate backstory centered around magicians of the Golden Age. Everywhere you look at AbracadaBar, there are winks and nods to the art of performing magic. These can range from straight jackets and chains, items made famous by Harry Houdini, to playing cards, mirrors, linking rings and other items that are part of any magician’s arsenal. However, this being Disney, if you look really close you’ll see some extra special details. What are the six best? Well sit back, remember that real magicians do “illusions” because “tricks” are, well, you know…, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – Magic Posters

Throughout AbracadaBar there are “enchanted” posters. They normally represent several of the famous magicians who would visit the lounge in the 1930s. However, part of the the story of AbracadaBar is that one night every magician in the bar disappeared, never to be seen again. Every hour on the 13th minute, the posters change and the magicians depicted in them disappear. This is very reminiscent of the effect Be Our Guest Restaurant uses to show a transformation of a “painting” in the West Wing.


Two of the magician posters “before.” (photo by Brandon Glover)


Bibbidy bobbidy boo! The two posters “after.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5 – Hidden Mickeys

Fans of Hidden Mickeys are going to need to keep their head on a swivel as there are several of them sprinkled throughout the bar area (including some in stained glass.) Our favorite though has to be what looks like a normal Ace of Clubs playing card, but instead is a cleverly designed Ace of Mickey.


Every mouse has an ace up its sleeve.  (photo by Brandon Glover)

Read the rest of this entry »

In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of September 9, 2016

by on September 9, 2016

ICYMIThis has been a very quiet week. I think Disney is getting ready for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Weekend. Crazy to think that the Festival starts next week! That’s crazy! Where has time gone?

This week, we see a change in Jasmine costume that set the world on fire, a touching tribute to Pulse victims, and more.

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors

Head’s up! If you’re headed to Walt Disney World, Disney has implemented that even kids will need to have their fingers scanned to enter the park. This is in an effort to stop stolen and shared ticket usage.

It’s a sad day. It appears that Scoop Sanderson will no longer be appearing at the Magic Kingdom.

Will be curious to see if something changes in regards to the fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after this instance.

The internet was up in arms this week over the new makeover that Princess Jasmine received. What do you think of this new look?

This past weekend was the Disneyland Half. It appears that runDisney had their oldest competitor yet. I hope that I can be that awesome when I reach that age!

Costco is apparently offering something very unique – annual passes to Disney California Adventure.

Sir Ian McKellen has documented the first day of filming for Beauty and the Beast and it’s kind of magical.

This is a touching tribute to those who were victims in the Pulse shooting courtesy of Universal.


In Case We Missed It

What did we miss? Attach your ideas to a Mickey Mouse Halloween Candy Bowl and send it to with the words “In Case You Missed It” in the subject line.


Dine or Dash? Epcot’s Food and Wine Booths (Part 2)

by on September 9, 2016

Time for the next column of this culinary cabaret of cuisines. In part 2, some old favorites are back, but some new booths are making their debut. Let’s get right into the action. (And if you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.)

*Indicates item returning from last year.

Farm Fresh


  • *Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers, and Green Onions (Pictured)
  • Chicken & Dumplings: Stewed Chicken with Mushrooms and Spinach
  • Pickled Beet Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese, Minus 8 Vinaigrette and Toasted Walnuts Read the rest of this entry »

Being First Family at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on September 9, 2016 21 Comments

A giraffe watching us closely

A giraffe watching us closely during our private Safari

Have you ever had an extra magical experience at Disney? Maybe a Cast Member or even another guest found a way to throw some pixie dust your way? From the smallest gestures, like a departing guest passing on their still inflated balloon to a new guest, to the biggest surprises, say winning a night in Cinderella Castle, Disney is perpetually full of fairy-tale moments. My husband and I were lucky enough to experience that very thing when we were chosen as ‘First Family’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

I knew there was a First Family at Magic Kingdom. When chosen, those lucky ducks are invited to open the park from the train station platform as part of the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show. Families arrive to the entrance gates super early every morning in matching outfits for a shot at joining the characters up on stage. As someone without kids of my own, being that First Family never really interested me personally. I’d rather see a family with little kids enjoy it instead. Plus, the thought of being up on stage in front of that many people is terrifying to me. Visions of baby Simba hoisted above all the animals at Pride Rock in Disney’s Lion King would haunt my dreams. So, without realizing other parks participated in the practice of selecting a First Family too, I gave up on any notion of being one.

It was with that lack of knowledge and with minimal expectations that we woke up bright and early one morning to rope drop Animal Kingdom. We successfully arrived before the gates opened which gave us a distinct advantage. Once they started letting people through the gates past The Oasis in Animal Kingdom and into Discovery Island, we were at the very front of the hoard of people who would head towards Kilimanjaro Safaris when the park opened. As luck would have it, we were also right in front of the tower where all the macaw birds land during the official opening announcement as well. While watching all the beautiful birds flying overhead to perch in front of us, I kept thinking this can’t get any better. Read the rest of this entry »

Julia’s Best Week Ever, September 8, 2016: Farewell Summer, Howdy Fall!

by on September 8, 2016 4 Comments

Even though school started a couple weeks ago here, I still think of Labor Day weekend as the end of summer. As it is also the wedding anniversary for me and my husband, we tend to make some sort of celebration happen over Labor Day weekend. This year, with some DVC points left to burn, we looked for availability and found a couple nights at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge. This would be our first time staying there, but the location was ideal, as we already had tickets for the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of 2016. The night before these amazing events, we had a brush with Hurricane Hermine, however. In fact, it was a little close for comfort.


When they're talking about where a tornado may be, it is not a good feeling to say "I can see my house from here."

When they’re talking about where a tornado may be, it is not a good feeling to say “I can see my house from here.”

We camped out in our closet wearing our hard hats for about 20 minutes while the area of disturbance (and one tornado) passed by. Our neighborhood was fine, and the property damage to the communities to our east and west was minimal, all things considered. The next day dawned with gray skies and rain blowing through, but with a clear forecast for the evening. After work, we headed over to Wilderness Lodge to check in. Read the rest of this entry »