Archive for August, 2017

New Entertainment for Epcot This Fall

by on August 29, 2017

©Rikki Niblett

For the past few years, the entertainment that can be found around World Showcase has been updated quite frequently. New entertainment acts grace the stages of the different countries of Epcot with unique representations of that country’s culture. One thing is for sure though; these acts, for the most part, are exceptionally entertaining. This fall, there will be some great new acts that join the Epcot entertainment roster, as well as some great fan favorites that will be returning. (Oh and I also bring good news as there are no lumberjacks that are returning!)


  • Suroît – This band is new to Epcot. They come from Canada’s Magdalen Islands in eastern Quebec and their sound has embraced influences from Cajun, Celtic, bluegrass and rock music. Suroît will perform on the Mill Stage at the Canada pavilion from August 31 – October 1.
  • Bodh’aktan – Returning once again, Bodh’aktan mixes Quebecois, folk and polka to make fantastic rock and dance music. This popular, kilted band is returning Canada Pavilion’s Mill Stage from October 2 – 22.
  • Raffy – This musical quartet makes their Epcot debut from October 23 – November 26 on the Mill Stage at the Canada Pavilion. Raffy has an infectious energy that they will be bringing to the park.
  • Margret Almer & The Bavarian Band – World-famous yodeler Margret Almer will be returning to the Germany Pavilion this fall. She’ll be performing with The Bavarian Band beginning August 31 and continuing through the holiday season.
  • Musique Aramenco – Returning to the stage at the Morocco Pavilion from September 1 – December 30. Musique Aramenco presents a fusion of traditional and modern Moroccan music.

I know I can’t wait to catch some of these great musical acts when touring around Epcot’s World Showcase this fall. What about you?

Allergy-Friendly Trick or Treats at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

by on August 29, 2017

As a child, I learned very early on to say “No thank you, I have allergies.” or flash my metal medical alert bracelet when in doubt. In the era I was growing up, there were few alternatives for my most severe allergies (soy being the most dangerous to my personal safety with the potential for anaphylaxis). Today, thankfully, I have outgrown many of the allergies that caused me discomfort as a child, and I can even eat soy in certain forms (although tofu and edamame can still trigger anaphylaxis for me, and some other legumes cause severe pain). But when I hear about children (and adults) who still have the challenge of dietary allergies, I really can sympathize from a personal level. Halloween nights were always a challenge in my house, watching candy get sorted into “safe”, “okay in moderation”, and “not safe” piles based on ingredients. Years ago, when I heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project (to offer allergy friendly or non-edible trick or treat options for kids), I was delighted. Out house has participated for several years now.

At Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, there’s also a “teal friendly” (allergy friendly) option for trick or treating. When it comes to food allergies, I don’t have to worry about an allergic reaction from physical contact with foods, and because I was pretty positive that there wouldn’t be individually wrapped pieces of tofu handed out, I figured that I’d give a try trick or treating in line with the allergies I had as a child to see how allergy safe the experience really is. My experience was, pun intended, a mixed bag.

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2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival + Video

by on August 29, 2017

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival begins this week!

My mouth is watering just thinking about all of those delicious dishes…

Okay, back to work. For today’s video, I’ll be showing some highlights this festival has to offer.

Bon appétit!

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New Dining Tool on Dashboard

by on August 29, 2017

At we provide you with tools that help you plan and enjoy your vacations. We know that dining is an important part of Walt Disney World trips, so to help secure hard-to-get dining reservations we offer our Reservation Finder. Building on the success of that tool, we are now making use of our extensive menu database to help you make decisions related to Disney Dining Plans.

The first version of this “Dining Calculator” is available now. At this point, the tool is simple: it shows you what dining plans are offered, and it gives you an estimated value of the food you’d get if you consumed “average” meals or “maximum value” meals. These (especially the “maximum value” meals) are not necessarily realistic since you would need to eat at same restaurant and order nearly the same thing for every one of your meals to get that value. However, these numbers should give a sense of the potential savings (or lack thereof) for your group in using a Disney Dining Plan.

To access the Dining Calculator tool, click on the DINING button while looking at a Walt Disney World trip on your dashboard (if you don’t already have a “trip” on your dashboard, you will need to create one). If you have an existing trip, you may need to edit your trip to specify the number of adults and children in your group.

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Free Custom Disney Family Decals Now Available

by on August 28, 2017

Now through the end of September, Disney is offering free decals you can customize to match your family. You choose the characters, location, and background online, and Disney allows you to download your custom image AND will send you a free decal you can add to your car or your luggage or just stick on your brother’s pants. And did we mention that it’s free?

To get started, click here to go directly to Disney.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Touring Plan Review

by on August 28, 2017

August 25th was the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party for 2017. I volunteered my wife and myself to test out the premium touring plan, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for Parents with Small Children (Focus on Treats). It’s a great touring plan if you’ve already covered most of the Magic Kingdom. The primary focus of the touring plan is on meeting characters, trick-or-treating, and the activities that can only be found during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It also includes tips for finding great viewing spots for the 9:15 pm Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade and 10:15 pm HalloWishes fireworks show.

The touring plan has been updated after our experience. We found the plan was very ambitious. Most of our touring plans are designed using our software and historical data, however with unique character meet and greets in this event, the wait times can vary dramatically. This plan is more of a strategy to navigate the Halloween party, rather than a precise itinerary.

The plan starts in Adventureland for character meet and greets and trick-or-treating before the 9:15 pm parade. After the parade, we squeezed in a ride on the Haunted Mansion before heading to Main Street to see HalloWishes. Then it is off to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland for more characters and candy.

It has been a few years since I did the Halloween party but very little has changed.  The markers for the trick-or-treat locations have been changed from a Mickey Ghost to a colorful Mars|Wrigley branded marker. Disney has added multiple party-exclusive Magic Shots, Animated Magic Shots, and photo opportunities from the Disney PhotoPass service. The candy path that went from New Fantasyland to Space Mountain is no more. The top-off candy at the exit at the end of the party has also departed. (But have no fear–with trick or treating, you can still get a full bag of candy by the end of the night.)

Copyright Disney

What We Learned

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Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl

by on August 28, 2017

ice cream crawl passport cover

Leave it to artist Donna Yan’s adorable Dole Whip couple to make us simultaneously want Dole Whip and a Mickey Bar!

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute must-have indulgences at Walt Disney World is ice cream. Add into that my love of coming up with themes or challenges for our Disney trips, and you get a recipe for success. (Specifically, you get a Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl!) My husband and I are apt to try a variety of challenges on our trips. We might focus on only getting snacks from places we’ve never been to before. Or we might make all of our table service reservations for restaurants we’ve never visited. Or we’ll do a trip dedicated to resort dining. (I’m just now noticing the theme of food in a lot of our planning…) For our upcoming trek, we decided to crank it up a bit and focus on ice cream.

I knew from the very beginning that not only did I want to do an ice cream crawl, but I wanted it to have its very own passport. I was inspired by the Epcot festival passports that detail out what food items you can find where. Seriously, what better way to keep track of all the amazing ice cream options than to have a dedicated ice cream passport?! (You can download your very own passport later in the article.) Let’s back things up a bit and discuss how the ice cream crawl was formed.

Simply put, the ice cream crawl was born out of an intense desire for ice cream. (Okay, it was actually as a result of the Whole30 we were in the middle of, but don’t tell anyone else that. It’s not like we were dying for sugar or anything…) First, I needed to decide what locations would be fair game for inclusion in the passport. All four theme parks were obvious, but what about resorts? Water parks? Disney Springs? At the end of the day, I went with locations that we would be reasonably likely to frequent. This included all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the area around Crescent Lake. It’s so easy to pop out of Epcot and over to the Crescent Lake resorts that including those seemed appropriate. (And we really needed Ample Hills Creamery in there!)

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Best Time to Book a DCL Cruise? Today.

by on August 28, 2017

When is the best time to book a Disney Cruise Line cruise? It may be right now. That’s based on an interesting development we’ve noticed in DCL pricing: there are a lot fewer last-minute bargains.

This wasn’t always the case. Last year, for example, your typical family of 4 could save around $900 off a high-deck Category 4A cabin on one of the Wonder’s summer 7-night Alaska cruises, if you booked at the last minute instead of a year in advance:

Disney Wonder 7-Night Alaska Cruise Best Time to Book / July 2016

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SATURDAY SIX: The 6 Highest-Rated Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on August 26, 2017

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Six Highest-Rated Attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort! This month we’ve taken the data submitted by TouringPlans readers after they have returned from their Orlando vacations to get an idea of what they liked – and didn’t like – during their trip to the parks. We started with the highest-rated rides at Walt Disney World, followed by the highest-rated shows and spectaculars. Last week we looked at the lowest-rated attractions at WDW and today we are going down the street to the Mouse’s chief competition, the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, two years ago the SATURDAY SIX commissioned a blue-ribbon panel consisting of some of the biggest names in the theme park community to rate Their Favorite Attractions at Universal. It’s going to be interesting to see what the “experts” chose compared to the average family, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey made its debut over 7 years ago and is pretty much the ride which forever changed the fortunes of Universal. The attraction’s Hogwarts Castle facade is impressive enough, but what really blew everyone away was the attention to detail in the queue. In fact, the queue of Forbidden Journey is so incredible that for a while there was a “castle tour” option where guests could walk the queue without riding the attraction. Universal used elements both from the Potter books and film series throughout the queue to create an amazing experience like no other. Creative nailed the “living paintings” concept and even had the debut of the Four Founders of Hogwarts, with the four having a conversation about the guests through their paintings. Fans of the Potter series get to walk through places such as Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

The ride itself has guests going through the greatest hits of the first several Harry Potter films, including a stop into the Chamber of Secrets, a fly through of a game of Quidditch, and even a run-in with Dementors. This is all done spectacularly through the use of live-action sets and screens that work seamlessly together to provide an experience like no others. The cherry on top of the sundae is the use of all your favorite Harry Potter stars both in the queue and in the ride.

Overall Score 4.3/5

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey queue. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark to Debut at Disney California Adventure for Halloween

by on August 25, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy - Monsters After Dark


Things are getting exciting at the Disneyland Resort with all the new fall offerings that are being introduced at Disney California Adventure, including Cars Land’s Haul-O-Ween, Buena Vista Street getting the Oogie Boogie treatment, and more. Well, it was announced that the park’s newest attraction is also going to be getting in on the fun. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! has been a fun addition, but during the fall, when the sun goes down, things are about to get even more interesting.

Mission: BREAKOUT! will be transformed nightly into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark. With Mission: BREAKOUT!,  Rocket finds his Guardians of the Galaxy pals trapped in the Fortress of The Collector, Taneleer Tivan, and during the day, Guests assist Rocket with a daring escape plan. During Monsters After Dark,  the action picks up moments after. Rocket has discovered that in the hurry to free his friends, they have accidentally left Groot behind. Now Rocket needs to distract all the monsters he has unleashed inside the Fortress, enlisting you, the Guest, to help while he rescues his friend.

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