by Erin Foster
on February 7, 2013
I hugged a dolphin at Epcot. And you can too!
My family of frequent Walt Disney World visitors is always looking for new Disney activities. We were excited when my twin daughters recently turned 13 and thus became old enough for the entire family to experience the Dolphins in Depth tour at Epcot together. During the tour we got to go backstage, enter the giant Living Seas aquarium, and get some quality bonding time in with a real live dolphin.
Our first stop was the meeting area outside the gates of Epcot. We were greeted by two cast members who gave us a little welcome speech and had us sign boilerplate waivers. We introduced ourselves and met the other guests on the tour. There is a limit of eight guests per Dolphins in Depth experience. Our group included my family of five plus a mother and her two adult schoolteacher daughters. This made for a very manageable experience.
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by Brian McNichols
on August 21, 2012
I did not go to Walt Disney World looking for love, yet I found it. I was walking the promenade of Epcot’s World Showcase when my eye was pulled towards such beauty that my heart stopped. Okay, I will stop with the strange romantic novel opening before this starts getting really weird. As you have probably gathered from the title of this post, I am not talking about a person but the Morocco pavilion.
The reason this reminds me of a love story is because of the organic way that my affection for Morocco began (please note that when I say ‘Morocco,’ I mean the pavilion. I have never even been on the African continent, let alone in the actual country of Morocco). As a child I was underwhelmed with World Showcase in general as most kids tend to be. As I have gotten older however, I have developed an affinity for other cultures and travel. Well, you can probably guess that makes World Showcase one of my favorite places to be in Disney World.
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by Lindsay DuBose
on April 2, 2012
This year’s Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is in full swing, and the park has never looked more gorgeous. What better way could there be to explore all the amazing displays and learn what it takes to put on this signature event than with a tour? Thankfully, the Gardens of the World Tour lets guests do just that!
Offered only during the Festival, Gardens of the World offers guests a unique opportunity to explore Epcot along with members of Disney’s Horticulture group. As the team responsible for bringing Epcot into bloom, the Horticulture tour guides are the perfect folks to share the ins and outs of maintaining the park’s landscaping during the Festival and throughout the year.
Periwinkle Fairy, from the upcoming The Secret of the Wings, debuts as a topiary at the 2012 Flower and Garden Festival.
While I attended last year’s Flower & Garden Festival, this was my first time taking the two tours offered. The previously reviewed English Tea Garden Tour was a fun, free way to enjoy the Festival’s offerings. However, that quick tour is no match for the amount of information and access provided on Gardens of the World.
To start, tour guests met outside Epcot at Guest Relations at 9am. If you take this or any other tour, make sure you are early. For the first time in almost 20 tours, I was late. Somehow after arriving one minute late, it took over 15 minutes to finally catch up with the group. If you are ever late for a tour, immediately go to Guest Relations. Provided your tour allows late arrivals (some don’t), Guest Relations will find a Cast Member to escort you to meet up with the group.
By the time we found my group, they had already received name tags, pins, discussed the main entrance Fantasia topiaries, and made their way behind Spaceship Earth. Things were moving fast. I was handed a name tag and a headset. Almost all the paid tours use headsets to allow guests to hear despite their proximity to the guide and the volume of the crowds in the park. My tour had 21 guests, so I was very glad I could still keep up with what was being said despite trailing the group.
Guests can interact with butterflies and view cocoons in Bambi's Butterfly House.
At the point I joined, the group was learning about how the giant peacock topiary behind Spaceship Earth had to be lowered earlier that week because it didn’t flow with the surrounding flower beds, which are supposed to represent the bird’s tail feathers. This was one of the examples of how Disney is constantly evaluating and updating displays throughout the Festival. Another example was the sand sculpture highlighting the new Chimpanzee nature film, which will be completely rebuilt several times throughout the festival as the sand is eroded.
From there we made our way through Future World East into the For The Birds and Pixie Hollow gardens. Much of our tour was spent learning about the details in to the special displays throughout the park. Even though I had visited Epcot during Flower & Garden before, I never realized just how many displays there are. I counted at least seven on the tour, not including the country-specific landscaping throughout World Showcase. This tour did a fantastic job of encouraging us to really explore all the beauty the Festival has to offer.
Next, we learned about the creation of the flower berms and floating baskets in the waterway leading up to World Showcase. We also visited Bambi’s Butterfly Garden, my favorite Flower & Garden Festival staple. Then we walked by the rose gardens and the sand sculpture before making our way into World Showcase.
While there was plenty to see in Future World, World Showcase took up the bulk of this 3 hour tour. Starting from Mexico, we visited each and every pavilion. We even got to enter the Showcase before it opened to regular guests. I’m a big proponent of taking early tours that allow for a private park experience. I spent as much time taking photos of empty pavilions as I did learning about horticulture.
Prince Philip and Princess Aurora waltz outside the France Pavilion.
One thing I didn’t realize until this tour, is that many of the flowers and displays for the festival are donated from outside parties, as well as other departments within Disney. Mexico’s orchids are provided by Animal Kingdom, which features orchids in its Oasis area. Many of the Mexico orchids are kept in pots and will go back to Animal Kingdom at the end of the Festival. The orchids that have been sewn into the palm trees will stay and may bloom a few more times before being removed.
Similarly, the Japan pavilion features a gorgeous display of bonsai trees. Each has been donated by a private owner to Disney. Our guide indicated that due to the delicate nature of bonsais, making sure these were returned in great condition is one of the most stressful tasks for the horticulture team.
Our group also learned about the process of creating topiaries for the festival versus building permanent topiaries elsewhere on property. If you have visited Topiary Production on the Backstage Magic tour, this part of the tour will be very redundant. I spent this part of the tour searching for the even the smallest sliver of shade. Fortunately, the headset let me stand far off without missing out on what the guides were saying.
Commemorative Gardens of the World Tour Pin
Which reminds me: WEAR SUNSCREEN!!! I wore SPF 75 and still ended up with a terrible sunburn from this tour. Three hours of standing in direct sun is no joke. I spent much of the tour standing at a distance to be in the shade and even walked off at one point to get water. As a native Floridian, this was my first time getting a serious sunburn at Disney. If I were taking this tour again, I’d carry an umbrella to block the sun. Bringing a water bottle would be a wise idea as well. If it’s this bad in March, May is going to be brutal.
In the France Pavilion, we learned about how Disney constructs the hanging plant baskets. One of our guides works on the indoor plants at Magic Kingdom, including the hanging baskets in Crystal Palace. It never occurred to me how much work goes into choosing and maintaining the arrangements. Did you know that each of Epcot’s hanging baskets weighs up to 60 pounds? The larger the arrangement, the less likely it will dry out between daily waterings.
2012 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Poster
We wrapped up in Canada. After learning about the irrigation system used for the trees on Canada’s “mountain”, we got to go backstage to view the pavilion from the other side. While this backstage portion of the tour was very short, it was fantastic to see how the mountain is constructed with deep planters and a pipe-system for the water. Here we each received a copy of the 2012 Flower & Garden Festival poster in a large tube. These posters cost $19.95 at the Festival Center, so it was really a nice surprise for tour guests.
Aside from being preoccupied with potential dehydration and sun-poisoning, I learned a lot from this tour. Most of the guests were avid gardeners, many taking notes on the specific plants used throughout Epcot. We each received a card with contact information for the Horticulture group should we have any follow up questions. Both of our guides were excellent and clearly passionate about their jobs.
If you are even the slightest bit inclined to learn more about gardening techniques and the process for pulling off the Flower & Garden Festival, I definitely recommend this tour for you. Bring some water, wear sunscreen and walking shoes, carry an umbrella, and you’ll have a good time.
If listening to questions about mulching techniques isn’t up your alley, you might want to reconsider. I’m not a gardener, and (sun aside) I had a reasonably good time. However, if I were facing time or budget constraints, I would skip the tour and just enjoy the beauty of the festival on my own. If you want to experience more Epcot but aren’t into plants, the UnDISCOVERed Future World tour is a good alternative. If you want to focus on Flower & Garden but want less of a commitment, try the English Garden Tea Tour. Just be sure to go late in the day to avoid heat exhaustion!
The Gardens of the World tour is currently offered Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 9am through May 20, 2012. It costs $60 and requires separate park admission. Guests must be at least 16 years old to take the tour. A 15% discount is offered for AAA Members, Annual Passholders, and DVC Members. Disney VISA Cardholders are eligible for a 20% discount when booking with their Disney VISA. To book, call (407) WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687).
Have you tried the Gardens of the World tour? Do you plan on trying it out on your next trip? Let us know what you think!
by Lindsay DuBose
on March 15, 2012
The Tea Caddy Shop
For the third installment of our Free Tour Series, we’re heading out of the resorts and into the parks. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival brings us two seasonal tours each spring – and one of them is *gasp* free! (The other is the popular Gardens of the World tour, which we will be reviewing soon.)
Now through the end of the festival on May 20, guests can embark on free 20-minute English Tea Garden Tour hosted by Twinings in the United Kingdom Pavilion. Having missed this tour during previous years, I was antsy to check it out the first week of this year’s festival.
First off, thank goodness I tried for the first tour time of the day. When I arrived Saturday just before the start of the 2pm tour, I was very dismayed to learn that it was already full. Full! I’ve never had this issue for the free resort tours, but this one has a lot more press and traffic thanks to the popularity of the Flower & Garden Festival.
Entrance to the English Tea Garden
Tip One: If you really want to catch the English Tea Garden Tour, sign up early! Tour sign up is inside The Tea Caddy shop in the UK Pavilion just across from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop. You must be signed up in advance to participate, and guests can only sign up for that day’s tours. There are 20 spaces per tour, and you can sign up as soon as World Showcase opens at 11am. Your whole party doesn’t need to be there to sign up.
Fortunately, I was able to snag one of the last spaces available for the 4pm tour. The Tea Caddy Cast Member took down my name and handed me a small laminated ticket for the 4pm tour. This ticket does not come back into play until the end of your tour, so hold on tight!
Left with 2 hours of free time, but too dang hot to walk anywhere, I decided to hang out in the Tea Garden anyway and take photos. As I hung during the early tour group, I noticed two things. One, it was really too bright for photos. And two, the folks in the tour group looked miserable and visibly sweaty. Which brings me to….
English Tea Garden Tour Group
Tip Two: Don’t take the 2pm tour! It is just too hot! Unless you happen to visit Epcot on an unseasonably cool day, opt for the 4pm or 6:30pm tours. By 4pm the Garden was shady and perfectly comfortable. Come late April or May however, you might want to stick with the 6:30pm tour. The 2pm tour is only offered Friday-Sunday anyways to accommodate weekend crowds.
Once 4pm came around, I checked in with the tour guide on the backside of The Tea Caddy shop in the English Tea Garden. All 20 guests were there, which makes for a crowded tour in such a small area. Many non-ticketed guests wandered by and were dishearten to find out the tour required prior sign up. The guide did nothing to shoo away these hangers-on, but most left when they realized how crowded it was.
Our tour began with an introduction to the Twinings of London tea company, which sponsors both the tour and The Tea Caddy shop. The tour is a bit like an extended commercial for Twinings, which was disappointing at first. However, I quickly gained new respect for the company and the tour when I learned that it had been in business for 306 years and made many unique contributions to how we enjoy tea today. For instance, Thomas Twining created my personal favorite, Earl Grey Tea, for Charles Grey, the Second Earl Grey.
Earl Grey Tea Cup
The rest tour of consisted of working our way around the garden, stopping in front of each of the giant tea cup planters. The first planter had Camellia Sinensis, the plant which most teas are made from. Black, white, green, and oolong teas all come from this one plant. The remaining 12 planters on the tour were each designed to showcase a different tea blend offered by Twinings. If you’ve already visited in previous years, it’s worth noting that 5 of the tea blends featured are new to the garden in 2012.
At the end of the tour, we handed the guide our laminated tickets in exchange for a couple of tea packets. Cast Members also offered us fresh-made samples of two of their cold brew teas. These samples were made available to anyone in the shop after the tour ended, so I got to try all four varieties by hanging around for the 2pm & 4pm tours. I was very tempted to purchase some of the Lady Grey variety, which was super refreshing after standing I’d been standing in the sun all afternoon.
Overall, it was cute tour that gave me an opportunity to experience the Flower & Garden Festival beyond the landscaping. I wouldn’t recommend it for first time guests or for those with limited time at Epcot. Since you need to go early to sign up and then come back later for the tour, it can definitely be a bit of a time suck if you were not already planning to be in that area. Also, it may not be the best choice for kids who may get bored standing around listening to the history of tea.
China Oolong Tea Cup
However, if you are looking for something new to experience at this year’s festival, the English Garden Tea Tour is a great choice. Not only is it free, but it gives you a new appreciation for one of the world’s most popular beverages. And if you’re a fan of British accents, this is a sure way get your fill since the tour is lead by international Cast Members. Just be sure to sign up early for one of the later tour slots and stay in the shade!
The Twinings Tea Garden Tour is only offered only during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival (this year’s dates are March 7 to May 20, 2012). Monday through Thursday, tours are held at 4pm and 6:30pm. Friday through Sunday, tours are held at 2pm, 4pm and 6:30pm. You must register in advance on the day of your tour in The Tea Caddy shop in the UK Pavilion. The tour is open to all ages and lasts 20-30 minutes.
Have you tried the Twinings Tea Garden Tour? Do you plan on trying it out on your next trip? Let us know what you think!
by Erin Foster
on February 1, 2012
It’s almost time to stop and smell the roses at Walt Disney World. The Epcot Flower & Garden Festival is taking root at the park from March 7 to May 20, 2012. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this will be the best Festival ever.
My most vivid childhood memory of Disney is seeing a giant topiary hippo and wondering, “How do they DO that?” I still find these larger-than-life living sculptures endlessly fascinating. More than 100 topiaries are scheduled to be on display this year, including plants representing characters from Toy Story (strawberry-scented Lotso!) and Cars.
HGTV is again sponsoring the festival, lending many of its TV personalities to the proceedings. Here’s who you’ll be able to see:
- John Gidding, HGTV’s Curb Appeal: The Block—presenting March 9 – 11
- Sabrina Soto, HGTV’s The High/Low Project—presenting March 16 – 18
- Jason Cameron, DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes and Man Caves—presenting March 23 – 25
- Camille Styles, HGTV.com Entertainment contributor—presenting March 30 – April 1
- Dan Faires, HGTV.com’s DanMade, Fan Favorite HGTV Design Star Season 5—presenting April 6 – 8
- Brandon Johnson, host of HGTV’s My Yard Goes Disney—presenting April 13 – 15
- Meg Caswell, HGTV’s Meg’s Great Rooms—presenting April 20 – 22
- Monica Pedersen, HGTV Dream Home Tour 2012 and Designed to Sell—presenting April 27 – 29
- Antonio Ballatore, HGTV’s The Antonio Treatment—presenting May 4 – 6
- Genevieve Gorder, HGTV’s Dear Genevieve and HGTV Design Star—presenting May 18 – 20
The only repeat presenters this year are Gorder and Gidding, so there should be lots of new material for annual guests.
Also keeping to tradition is the return of the Flower Power concert series, with artists that will make you nostalgic and your kids confused. During the Festival you can hear:
- March 9 to 11, Jose Feliciano, Light My Fire
- March 16 to 18, Starship Starring Mickey Thomas, We Built This City
- March 23 to 25, The Guess Who, American Woman
- March 30 to April 1, The Spinners, Cupid
- April 6 to 8, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, The Twist
- April 13 to 15, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Good Thing
- April 20 to 22, The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie, Happy Together
- April 27 to 29, Chuck Negron Formerly of Three Dog Night, Black & White
- May 4 to 6, The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO, Don’t Bring Me Down
- May 11 to 13, Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, I’m Henry VIII, I Am
- May 18 to 20, Davy Jones, I’m a Believer
The new performers this year are Three Dog Night and ELO. Personally, I’m always most excited to see Davy Jones because it takes me back to the days when I wished I was Marcia Brady. Sigh.
Shows are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. in the America Gardens Theatre.
Bushels of Gardening Information
In addition to the HGTV presenters, there will be gardening experts making scheduled appearances each day at the Greenhouse Stage in Festival Headquarters in Future World. Many of these presenters will be representatives from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. Along with planned lectures and demonstrations, experts will be available from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day to chat and take individual guest questions. This is a great opportunity to get your children interested in gardening; they will have a chance to have an adult expert take time with them.
The standard gardening talks will be supplemented by weekends dedicated to special topics:
- Art in the Garden Weekend: See nature through the eyes of “plein air” artists and behold one-of-a-kind works of art. At World Showcase from March 23 through 25, 2012.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Specialists: Meet the experts and learn about incredible indigenous insects that are part of our world. At the Festival Center from April 13 through 15, 2012.
- Florida Federation of Garden Clubs: See amazing arrangements that defy description. At the Festival Center from April 27 through 29, 2012.
- Fresh from Florida Weekend: Discover the bounty of Florida—from Apalachicola to Zellwood! At the Festival Center from May 4 through 6, 2012.
Special, Fun, and Everything Else Under the Sun
Among the other offerings at Epcot during the Festival are:
- Bambi’s Butterfly House, presented by HGTV: Experience hundreds of native butterflies and see some of your favorite characters from Bambi, presented in topiary. Located at Imagination Walkway.
- Sustainable Beauty, presented by HGTV: This unique garden showcases sustainable gardening ideas that you can try at home.
- English Tea Garden, presented by Twinings of London Tea: Discover the art and history of tea blending during a 20-minute tour of this elegant English Tea Garden, featuring classic tea blends and new herbal teas for 2012. Tours are held Monday through Thursday at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., and Friday through Sunday at 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Register for your guided tour at The Tea Caddy. Located at the United Kingdom Pavilion.
- Bonsai Collection—located at the Japan Pavilion.
- Festival Blooms, Presented by Syngenta—located at Future World East and West Lake.
- Children’s Garden, Presented by Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association
- Orchids—located at the Mexico Pavilion.
- Spice and Herb Garden—located at the Morocco Pavilion.
- Let’s Get Moving: Unique play structures for ages 2 through 5. Located at Imagination Walkway.
- Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden: Explore the garden world of Pixie Hollow and find some of your favorite fairy characters presented in topiary. Play structures are designed for ages 2 to 5. Located at Test Track Walkway.
- Sounds of Nature, Presented by Nature Conservancy: Relax as you listen to the soothing sounds of nature. Located next to Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at Test Track Walkway.
Access to the Flower & Garden exhibits and activities is included with your regular Epcot park admission ticket. There is a supplemental Epcot Gardens of the World Tour available in which a Disney horticulturist hosts a 3-hour, guided tour designed especially for garden enthusiasts. The Gardens of the World Tour is available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Register at Guest Relations or call (407) WDW-TOUR. Cost is $60.00, including tax, and theme park admission is required. The tour is available to Guests ages 16 and up only.
So folks, are you blooming with excitement about the Festival? Did you visit the Festival last year? Do you think Disney rose to the occasion? Do you like the offerings this year, or do you think they’re yucca? Do you carrot all? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks to Tom Bricker for many of the brilliant photos of last year’s festivities.
by AJ Wolfe
on September 9, 2011
Presenter at a Wine Seminar
We’re gearing up for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival with a series of posts about our favorite time of year! You can see my previous post in this series here!
Travelers to this 16th annual event will find plenty to nosh on at the booths around Epcot’s World Showcase, but visitors looking for more involvement will want to book a low-cost seminar or demonstration (often called “deminars” by F&W veterans)!
Most seminars and demos are relatively cheap (sometimes free ) activities held inside the Festival Welcome Center in Epcot’s Future World (it’s in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion). And in addition to the low-cost of these events, if you are a Tables in Wonderland member, Annual Passholder, and/or DVC member booking a seminar for Monday through Thursday, you’ll be eligible for a discount!
Let’s take a look at some of our Deminar options:
Note: Click the links below to see lists of all deminars available!
Culinary seminars are held daily at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 p.m. and are only 45 minutes in length. About 100 guests are seated facing a show kitchen, where a presenter (sometimes a celebrity chef like Robert Irvine!) creates a dish right in front of your eyes. You’ll get valuable tips from top chefs and wine presenters with the anticipation of getting to taste-test the finished dish. Some of my favorite demos include those presented by Disney-related celebrity chefs like Cat Cora (who headlines Kouzzina) and Kevin Dundon (who headlines Raglan Road).
Presenters at a Culinary Demonstration
Tasting Portion from a Culinary Demonstration
Wine and Beverage seminars are hosted daily at 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00 p.m. These 45 minute sessions will emphasize tips and sips! Most beverage seminars offer three tasting glasses for guests, and a presenter — usually a representative from the winery or brewery involved — will discuss the various attributes of the different tasting portions.
Tasting Glasses From a Wine Seminar
Mixology seminars are new to the festival this year! Featuring presenters discussing different spirits, guests will have the chance to create a mixed drink or two!
Passing Out Tasting Portions at a Demo
New for 2011 is a Scent Demonstration scheduled for October 2nd. No idea what to expect with this one, but I’ll be there!
When you’re done mixing it up with some seminars and demos, take in a Book or Bottle Signing, Taste Seminar, or an HGTV Home Entertaining session. Watch for your fave HGTV designers with Vern Yip starting the festival on September 30th (yay!!). (More on these later!)
Deminars range in cost from $10-13 per person. To book, call 407-WDW-FEST or book online via this link — scroll down to “Demonstrations and Seminars” and click on Make a Reservation.
Check out Food and Wine Festival coverage (including live coverage during the festival) on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival section of DisneyFoodBlog.com.
by AJ Wolfe
on July 16, 2010
Howdy all! We just finished taping a WDW Today episode about the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, but I thought it’d be fun to highlight the new additions for this year and remind you of a few key dates to help in your planning.
When: October 1-November 14, 2010
Where: All around Epcot
How Much?: Variable. You can drop a month’s pay at the festival or you can have fun for free.
International Marketplace Booth
- Free: Many events held in the Festival Center are free, including Authentic Taste Seminars and Authors Without Borders. You’ll also find several seminars set up throughout the World Showcase that are free. Find out more here.
- Low-Cost: Several culinary and beverage demonstrations are in the $8-$13 range. Tastes from the International Marketplace booths will run from $2-$8.
- Expensive: Dozens of special events from celebrity chef-studded signature dinners to chocolate seminars with renowned chocolatiers to the uber-popular Party for the Senses are again available this year. Costs range from $40-$450 and up.
Booking Details: Booking for the special (expensive) events opens on July 20th at 7am. Just call 407-WDW-FEST for details or to book. If you’d like tickets to the lower-cost seminars and demonstrations, booking opens August 26th for Tables in Wonderland and DVC members and Annual Passholders. Booking opens August 28th for the General Public. Again, 407-WDW-FEST is the number to call.
New Events and Attractions to Anticipate
In addition to some old favorites like the French Regional Lunches and Sweet Sundays, Disney is introducing several new events on the 2010 Food and Wine Festival docket:
Graphic for 2010 Festival
Delicious Discoveries First Bites
This is basically a festival sneak peek. Disney is promising glimpses of celebrity chefs, tastes of new Food and Wine Festival dishes, and other exciting secrets to be revealed before the festival officially opens. The event will be held September 30th from 6:30-9pm and sounds pretty exciting, but the $195 price tag — not including tax — might make folks a little skittish.
Don’t forget, the Food and Wine Festival usually has a “soft opening” the day before the grand opening, so you might get a chance to try some of the World Showcase booth menus prior to the big day anyway.
3D: Disney Dessert Discoveries
This is being touted as a private Illuminations Dessert Party…and then some. Taking place on most Fridays (with one Thursday tucked in there on October 21st), the $45 ticket price will get you plenty of desserts, wines, and cordials along with reserved seating for Illuminations, Reflections of Earth — Epcot’s fireworks show.
Belgium, South Korea, and Charcuterie and Cheese Booths Come to the Festival
Every year Disney introduces a few new booths to its International Marketplace — a set-up of over 25 mini-kiosks offering small portions of food and drinks from different regions and countries around the world. These booths are set up around the World Showcase, and items can be purchased a la carte for around $2-$8.
This year, we get to try waffles from the Belgium booth, barbecue from the South Korea booth, and fondue from the Charcuterie and Cheese booth. Of course, there’s plenty more to sample. Check out all of the menus here.
Passport Stamp Example
Marketplace Discovery Passports
Another fun addition to the International Marketplace this year are the Marketplace Discovery Passports. These are free pamphlets that you (and your kids!) can use to keep track of which marketplace booths you’ve visited and which you’d still like to enjoy. At each booth, just ask a cast member to stamp your passport!
New Eat to the Beat! Concerts
Disney’s Eat to the Beat! Concert series is a free (with Epcot admission) group of concerts that take place three times per night throughout the festival. Every few days the band changes, but you’re bound to find a few of your favorites on stage. This year, new acts include Sugar Ray, Air Supply, Howard Jones, 38 Special, Roger Hodgson, Hanson, and Rick Springfield. To see the full line-up and dates for each band, go to our Eat to the Beat! page.
Low-Cost Wine Tasting Seminar
Taste Shake and Indulge: Grand Marnier Tastings
For those who love this orange-flavored liqueur, you now have the chance to immerse yourself in it. (OK, not literally — there won’t be any bathtubs of Grand Marnier sitting around Epcot.) On Saturdays from 2:30-4pm, $45 will buy you not only a tasting of a full range of liqueurs, but also a short class on shaking and muddling Grand Marnier cocktails as well as some sweet treats from Bistro de Paris where the event is held.
For those who just can’t get enough of the Food and Wine Festival, Disney is introducing a full vacation package this year — the Grape Getaway. While we don’t know pricing or booking date, yet, we do know that the package will include 4 days and 3 nights of exclusive Food and Wine Festival fun. The package is limited to 100 people and will run from October 24th-October 27th, 2010.
Those are just a few of the new events and attractions scheduled for this year’s festival, and you can believe me when I say you can have a great time no matter what your budget. As always, check out the Disney World Website for more information, and don’t forget to come see us over at the Disney Food Blog!
by Sam Gennawey
on June 30, 2010
Been awhile since I was here last and it feels good to be back. Just like walking through the front gate at one of the parks. Samland is proud to be a part of the new Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World Color Companion. Isn’t time for you to buy your second copy? Samland has been revamped so that it is easier to find the articles you are looking for. I hope you get a chance to check it out.
Future World has been compared to a World’s Fair and for good reason. The basic design principles are the same. They both feature monumental pavilions with each one focused on a single concept. The pavilions are tied together by highly detailed, well-designed public spaces. To create a memorable and meaningful experience, the public spaces integrate landscaping, water, sculpture, light, motion, and scenic vistas.
When you enter Future World you are entering a time machine. The arrival experience is designed to transport you from your car, a bus or the monorail, and drop you into the future. You and your party will share the humbling experience of passing under the iconic Spaceship Earth. The bottom of this first of its kind geodesic sphere is only 18 feet from ground and feels almost close enough to touch.
The portal under Spaceship Earth funnels you into the Millennium Plaza. The Innoventions buildings create a strong boundary and frame the plaza. At the plaza’s heart is the Fountain of Nations, which was dedicated by Walt Disney’s widow Lillian in 1982.
Go left and the east side of the park is devoted to the left side of your brain. This is the home to rational, objective thought, science and math and features the themes of energy, space exploration, and mechanical engineering. The planters and pathways are geometrically shaped, rigid with sharp angles, plantings are precise and formal, and public furniture is functional and uses technology to overcome environmental challenges.
Go right and the west side is focused on the right side of your brain. This is where holistic thinking, music, the arts, and creativity thrive. The circle of life, both on the land and the sea, is celebrated in two of the pavilions. The Land pavilion pops up out of the ground as if from a split in the earth and the Seas pavilion is shaped like a wave or a huge shell. The Imagination pavilion requires you to suspend your disbelief as you pass through a magical garden and the pyramidal structures have been described as a “symphony of volumes, forms, tonal nuances.” The pathways are gently curved; the plantings are less formal, there is lots of water, and seating areas are under shady spots covered by a canopy of mature trees.
by Michael Owen
on May 31, 2010
Longer stays allow for more relaxed touring of MK
Travelling to Walt Disney World from the United Kingdom requires a mammoth 8-9 hour flight, which means many, including myself, chose to spend at least 14 nights in Orlando to make the long trip worth it.
The question is should visitors, both international and domestic, follow a touring plan when on such a long trip or is it better to take a more relaxed approach to visiting the many attractions at WDW?
The first thing to consider would be what you want to get out of your vacation. Are you totally focused on Walt Disney World or do you want to visit some of the other attractions in the area such as Universal Orlando, Sea World and Busch Gardens?
Many guests coming from international destinations like to get the most out of their vacation, which means they chose to visit all of the eight major theme parks listed. Eight parks in 14 days is no easy feat, meaning it’s probably best to follow a touring plan, ensuring your time efficient on your trip.
What about if you want to focus on just visiting Walt Disney World in that time? Is it really necessary to follow a strict plan when you have so much time at your disposal?
Following a plan gives you more time to relax around the pool or at the hotel
Even when visitors to WDW give themselves upward of 14 days to make their way around the parks it’s still best to follow a touring plan.
Touring plans aren’t just good for fitting a lot into a small space of time, they also ensure that guests wait in line for as small amount of time as possible. It may seem more relaxing to spend your extra days not following a plan, but it means you may spend a lot of that time in line rather than enjoying yourself.
When I go to Walt Disney World I’m usually with people 18 and over, which means the adult 1-day touring plans for each of the four parks are ideal, or if we don’t want to see everything we’ll use the selective touring plans, which focus on the best attractions in the park and leave out the slightly less popular attractions.
My group may follow these plans for our first visits to each of the four parks then if we want to go back we’ll at least stick loosely to the plan in order to ensure that we avoid the long lines and big crowds.
The two-day touring plans for small children and the ‘happy family’ two-day touring plan for the Magic Kingdom are ideal for those on extended trips where you don’t want to be running from one attraction to another but still want to avoid long lines. The same can be said for the ‘not a touring plan touring plans’ at the other three parks.
Following a plan on a trip also offers other advantages. If you’ve covered all four parks with a plan then want to go back again you know what attractions are quiet at what times and when to go in order to avoid big lines.
Following a plan on my long vacations has allowed me to see so many other attractions in the Central Florida area I never would have done if I hadn’t had covered the parks so efficiently. It also allowed me to use my extra time relaxing by the pool or back at the hotel rather than stuck in lines.
Regardless of how long your vacation is it’s still beneficial to follow a touring plan for your visits to the parks and I know it’s something I’ll be doing on all of my upcoming trips.
Michael Owen is a blogger and UK resident who blogs regularly over at Theme Park Daily!
(photo #1 by Chris Harrison, photo #2 by Brissea)
by AJ Wolfe
on April 12, 2010
To me, dining at a restaurant with a beautiful view makes the meal taste just a bit better. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived so much of my life in snowy trundra and urban wastelands (where very few restaurants have wonderful views); or maybe I’ve just always been the type of eater who’s greatly influenced by surroundings like table location, smells, sounds, crowd level, etc.; but an incredible view from my table is something I’m willing to fight for.
So, whether you want to do some people-watching, see the Magic Kingdom fireworks or Illuminations from your table, spend your dinner spotting African wildlife, or just relax with a tranquil lookout, here are a few Disney World dining spots that I think afford incredible views:
California Grill Sunset
The California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort is probably my top suggestion when someone wants an outstanding restaurant view. From the top floor of the resort, the floor to ceiling windows offer amazing views of the whole of Walt Disney World — and the rest of Orlando. Watching the sun set behind the Grand Floridian Resort, or catching the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks show from this location, will probably be one of your grandest memories from your vacation.
Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room
Because this is one of the most well-known “good view” locations, it’s also one of the very crowded! Guests line up nightly to wait for Rose and Crown‘s outdoor patio tables where the view of Illuminations is one of the most spectacular in Epcot, but I also suggest booking a table for lunch. Sitting outside on the lovely patio, watching the boats glide back and forth over World Showcase Lagoon, and taking in the detail of the other pavilions within your view is a wonderful way to spend a mealtime.
View of Giraffe from Sanaa Table
Sanaa‘s casual, relaxed atmosphere and tucked-away location make it a wonderful place to detox after a hectic morning in the theme parks. But what I find enchanting about this place is that it’s the only Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort restaurant that actually has a view of the hotel’s main draw — the African animals on the savanna. Go for lunch or an early dinner to guarantee plenty of daylight, and request to be seated next to one of the restaurants large picture windows. Expect to see giraffe, zebras, Ankole cattle, African birds, and other incredible animals.
Another one of the best views in Walt Disney World, ‘Ohana‘s wall-to-wall windows give guests a generous view of Seven Seas Lagoon, the Polynesian Resort grounds and Volcano pool, and the major landmarks of the Magic Kingdom. Book a spot here when the restaurant opens for dinner at 5pm to take in the relaxing late-afternoon and evening sunlight spilling over Seven Seas Lagoon, or make an advanced dining reservation just in time to catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant!
The View From Tokyo Dining
An excellent restaurant for sushi gourmands, Tokyo Dining also offers one of the best views in Epcot’s World Showcase. During the day, look out over the World Showcase promenade and amuse yourself with some wonderful people-watching; in the evening, schedule your meal in time to see Illuminations: Reflections of Earth explode over World Showcase Lagoon.
Other great spots to enjoy the view, in my opinion of course, are Narcoosee’s, in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort; Cantina de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico — I imagine the new incarnation opening in the Fall will have some astounding views of the World Showcase Lagoon; and Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree Barbecue, where you can enjoy a stunning view of Expedition Everest from the seating area.
What are your thoughts? Any additions to the list or experiences you can share about great views from Disney restaurants — and whether or not they make the meal better for you?
You can find more Disney Restaurant information from AJ Wolfe over at The Disney Food Blog.