Showing posts with label special events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label special events. Show all posts

What makes Walt Disney World Resort #WonderFALLDisney?

A few weeks ago, I turned into the Disney Parks Live Stream from the Walt Disney World Resort to catch a glimpse of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular Show that is part of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  During the broadcast, Disney Parks commentators shared some of the reasons that Fall is one of the best seasons to visit.  I've had the pleasure of taking part of some of these events before, and others I'm excited to experience for the first time when our next trip begins in just about a month!

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival - This classic festival that has been a part of Epcot for over 2 decades showcases food and drinks from around the world as well as some of the best celebrity chefs one can imagine.  Last year, we had a wonderful time eating our way around Epcot.  One of my best tips for beginners to the festival - don't bother making lunch and dinner reservations.  You'll be so full from snacking at the delicious kiosks, you won't need to stop and sit down for a full meal!  And don't forget to check out the Chase Lounge if you have a Chase Visa credit card.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party - I have to confess that I am a little bummed were going to be missing this.  In case you missed my previous post, we opted out of attending this annual event due to the late night with young kids and ridiculous Halloween weekend pricing.  However, when I was watching the Live Stream from the party in September, I have to admit that the whole event looks fantastic.  I'm sure we'll end up going at some point when the kids are older.  Here's wishing all of you attending a spooktacular time!

runDisney - The first weekend in November means that runDisney has once again returned to the Walt Disney World Resort.  As the only fall race in Florida, this is a very popular ticket.  I ran Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K and the Wine and Dine Half-Marathon in 2015 and can't wait to see the changes for 2016.  With a new Wine and Dine 10K and Lumiere's 2-Course Challenge added to the menu, as well as the time change for the half-marathon to a morning start, there is sure to be lots of excitement and opinions surrounding this event.

Good Weather, Lower Crowds, and Great Deals - Long gone are the high temperatures and paralyzing humidity of the summer.  Instead, you'll find pleasant temperatures and smaller crowds with school back in session.  Fall can also feature several great travel deals.  This year, free dining once again made a return to the Walt Disney World Resort as did percentage off offers for room only reservations.  While the booking window has passed for most of these great offers, deals are still available for the popular holiday season and Disney Visa cardholders have their preview this week of special offers for the beginning of 2017.

We're counting down the days to our #WonderFALLDisney vacation.  What are your favorite events of this season?


3 Reasons to Visit the Chase Lounge at Epcot International Food & WineFestival

If you're planning to visit Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and have a Chase credit card, I'm here to let you in on one of the best kept secrets during the festival.  Touring the festival can be exhausting, but the Chase Lounge is the perfect place to relax while in Epcot.  The Chase Lounge is located inside the American Adventure.  To gain entry, you need to show your Chase Visa at the door and then you can proceed up the stairs to enjoy some great perks!  If you have a Disney Rewards Visa Card, you already have the connection you need with Chase to access the lounge.  Here are my top 3 reasons to check out the Chase Lounge.

Free Non-Alcholoic Beverages - That's right, something free!  Cardmembers can grab a free soda or drink of water while relaxing inside.  Wine and beer are also available for sale with reduced lines inside of the lounge.

An Air Conditioned Break - When spending a day enjoying all that Epcot has to offer, you are probably going to want to take a break at some point to escape the balmy temperatures that can still creep into Florida during the fall season.  The Chase Lounge offers comfy chairs, plenty of seating, and even some charging stations for all of your mobile devices!

Premium Seating for Epcot Favorites - This was one of the most surprising and best finds inside the Chase Lounge.  I happened to notice a cast member sitting off to the side with a box.  When I went over to check out what was inside, she had special wrist bands for reserved seats to that night's Illuminations: Reflections of Earth show and the Eat to the Beat Concerts that day.  The bands were only available for same day shows and were very limited quantities so if you want to try and score one, be sure to swing by early in the day!

The Chase Lounge is the perfect place to rest and relax during a busy day at Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  Be sure to check it out this fall!

Why We Won't Be Going to MNSSHP

A few disclaimers before I begin tonight's post.  I love Disney - always have and probably always will.  I recognize that Disney is a business and, while they excel in providing magical vacation memories, they are ultimately trying to make a lot of money as a successful company.  I don't begrudge this at all - but even I have to admit that some things are getting a little crazy.

When my husband told me about the Walt Disney World trip that we could plan for the fall, I was even more excited than normal.  I had never been to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and couldn't wait to experience it - on Halloween night none-the-less!  I did my research about the event and knew that I was going to pay a premium for tickets on Halloween night.  In 2015, the tickets cost $87 for adults and $82 for kids 3-9.  While these are steep ticket prices, I felt that between the 4pm admission to Magic Kingdom, the parade, the fireworks, the candy, and the entertainment I could justify it.  Then, the prices for 2016 were released.  Seriously?!?  At $105 for adults and $100 for kids, I about fainted.  Do you know how much I could do in Disney for that money vs. one evening in the Magic Kingdom???

My favorite pirates!
So in an act that probably astonished my husband, I said "no" to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  I could come up with an experience that would still be new and just as memorable for the kids for a lot less money - I was sure of it.  I went back to the drawing board and remembered something that I had been interested in taking the kids to before, but we never had the extra funds.  I got on the phone with Disney Recreation and booked the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage for Halloween night.  If you're not familiar with this, it begins in the Contemporary with snacks and sweets.  There is a special meet and greet with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee before you take off on your voyage.  You get a prime view of the nighttime fireworks show with the music piped into your boat.  The evening ends with a special goodnight send off back on land from Peter Pan.  I think my 4 year old will be more than thrilled to say "Yo Ho, Let's Go!" to this adventure.

And as for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, I'm missing out on treats, a special parade, unique characters, and HalloWishes to enjoy salty and sweet snacks, an up close view of the Electrical Water Pageant, meet rare Peter Pan characters, and watch HalloWishes - for a lot less money.  The cost of the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage is $69 for adults and $41 for kids.  I'm excited to "sea" what this new-to-me experience has to offer and I'll save some of my gold doubloons in the process.  Ahoy mateys!

Celebrating a Special Occasion in Walt Disney World

Notice our anniversary button??
Whether it's a birthday, anniversary, family reunion, graduation, or any number of other special events, millions of people flock to Walt Disney World as a place to celebrate with family and friends. And, why not?  There is simply so much magic and pixie dust waiting here, it's easy to walk around with a big smile on your face and feeling like a kid again.  To make your special occasion even more special, there are a few things to take note of when planning your Walt Disney World vacation.

Everywhere you go in Walt Disney World, you'll be able to find free buttons from cast members that make your special occasion visible to the world.  Don't be surprised to have Disney cast members congratulating you throughout your visit.  There may even be some special experiences they make available to you to help you celebrate - from a free dessert, to an extra FastPass, and maybe even something as unique as being selected as the family of the day!

When you want to add your own special touches to a celebration at the parks, you can reach out to Disney Floral and Gifts.  From their website, you can order balloons, gift packs, cakes, and so much more to be delivered to your room.  Regardless of whether your a kid or an adult, these treats are certainly unique (albeit expensive) ways to celebrate while in Walt Disney World.
Baby on board - Disney style!!

Outside of the Walt Disney World family, you can also check for unique shirts to highlight your achievements from several Etsy sellers.  When I visited Walt Disney World during my second pregnancy, I found maternity shirts on Etsy that celebrated my little mouseketeer in the making!  Like the buttons, this becomes a great visual reminder of what you are celebrating throughout your stay.

Disney adds a touch of magic to any celebration and there are lots of ways to celebrate in the parks!

A Beginner's Guide to Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

When we decided to plan our first visit to Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival in 2015, I was at a rare loss of Disney knowledge.  This was probably one of the few things that I previously had zero experience with when it comes to Walt Disney World and I found myself scouring the Internet for answers.  In an effort to help those of you that might also be planning your first visit to the Food & Wine Festival, I've assembled some of my biggest "ah-ha" lessons learned.

1.  Be prepared to drop serious money in Epcot - The Food & Wine Festival is held within Epcot's World Showcase and houses over 20 kiosks of food and beverage bliss.  On top of your admission to Epcot, be prepared to pay between $3.50 and roughly $8.50 per taste of food or drink with flights being even more expensive.  Tasting your way around the world won't be cheap, so be prepared if you want to enjoy a wide variety of selections from the festival.  There is some good news though.  If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, most selections at the kiosks can be redeemed through snack credits and since Disney usually offers free dining during the fall months when the festival is going on, this is a great idea.

2.  Minimize dining reservations on festival days - The portion sizes of both food and drink are decent considering the money you pay.  By the time that you taste filling beverages and taste a variety of food, you probably won't be hungry for much of a meal.  Definitely avoid buffet dining which will carry a heavy price tag.  If you want to reserve a table service meal to experience a particular restaurant or secure good viewing for an evening show, make sure it is one that you can order off the menu so you can stick to lighter fare if you're not overly hungry.  You would also be fine to minimize your total overall Disney budget by skipping meals on these days.

3.  Grab a Festival Passport and make a plan - The first stop on the first day your at the festival should be the Festival Center where you can pick up a passport which will have all of the food and drink options listed at each kiosk.  If you go out into the festival chaos without a plan, it would be like trying to plan a road trip without GPS or a map.  With so many options, resign yourself to the fact that you won't be able to do it all (unless you live close by and make trips throughout the festival and have hit the Mega Millions jackpot - in either case, I'd be jealous!).  Pick your priorities to taste first and then you can always sample more if you get the chance.

4.  Buy a Park Hopper ticket - I'm not always a fan of the Park Hopper on my Disney vacations because we tend to be fine picking one park and staying there for a day which saves us money.  However, during the Food & Wine Festival, I think a Park Hopper ticket is a good option.  Spending a whole day at Epcot tasting is exhausting and filling.  The Food & Wine festival is the perfect venue to visit for half of a day and come back to several times during your trip.

5.  Bring your Chase card - Chase is (or at least has been) the official sponsor of the Food & Wine Festival and brings proud fanatics the Disney Rewards Credit Card.  If you have a Chase card, whether it is Disney themed or not, there is a Chase lounge located inside the American Adventure pavilion with free sodas and water, air conditioned seating, and some limited amounts of wrist bands for reserved seating for the Eat to the Beat Concerts and Illuminations viewing.  We visited the Food & Wine Festival twice.  Our Thursday afternoon visit found the Chase lounge to be relaxing and slow paced, but on our Sunday visit to Epcot, we didn't even attempt to enter the Chase lounge as a long line had gathered waiting to get in.  Since crowds vary day to day, this may or may not be a good place to "relax" during the festival, but it's worthwhile to carry your Chase card with you just in case!
Inside the Chase Lounge

6.  This isn't your typical Wine Fest - My husband is a true fan of wine who likes to learn about the wine that he tastes.  If you're like him, be prepared that when you taste at the kiosks, your wine is simply being poured by Disney cast members who really have no knowledge about the wine, grapes, region, winery, etc.  I'll admit - he was disappointed to be tasting some fabulous wines without being able to learn anything about them.  If you are looking for a more "educational" experience, similar to what you get a local or regional wine festivals where people can talk to you about the wine you are tasting, book a seminar.  They typically only run about $15 in cost and several are held each day.  However, they are very popular and almost always sell out well in advance of the festival itself.  Keep track of when the seminar schedule is released on Walt Disney World's website to book early.  And, if you have a Disney Rewards Credit Card from Chase, you get a few days advanced booking before it opens to the general public.

A picture perfect day at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival
Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to those of you visiting Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival!  I hope to be back sometime again within the next few years and would love hearing some of your favorite tips as well.  Bon appetite! 

Talk like a Pirate on Your Next Disney Cruise Line Vacation!

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day," making it the perfect chance to highlight all the pirate fun that awaits on your Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.  The Pirates in the Caribbean night features food, entertainment and that splash of pixie dust which combine for a memorable evening where everyone in the family can take part in the fun.

You won't want to miss the pirate fun that awaits!
While you're out enjoying the day, your cabin host will deliver pirate bandanas to your room for the entire family which you're invited to wear that evening.  Some guests join the crew members and characters by bringing their own elaborate pirate costumes, but don't feel like you need to purchase costumes to enjoy the evening.  At dinner, each of the three main dining rooms will be serving a special pirate themed menu.  On both of our Disney Cruise Line vacations, we dined at Animator's Palate on Pirate Night which meant that the dining room featured pirate art from movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Planet, and Peter Pan on that particular night.

The pirate deck party is great fun for the whole family!
Following dinner, venture outside to the main pool area for a deck party unlike any other.  Pirates are about to take over the ship unless Mickey and friends can save the day!  Don't be surprised throughout the evening to see familiar pirate favorites such as Jake, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Captain Jack joining in the fun.  The deck party  is followed by a truly unique cruise experience - fireworks at sea!

Fireworks at sea!
Of course, your Personal Navigator will have all of the important details for your particular cruise so be sure to check it out!


runDisney - Creating Me Version 2.0

In both my professional and personal life, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve and grow.  I think this is an important quality to possess and I am trying to instill it in my chilldren.  Training for my first runDisney race has forced me outside my comfort zone in a number of ways - all of which challenge me to be a better version of myself.

Ready for a training run!
I'm not the 18 year old runner that I used to be.  13 years, 2 degrees, a career, a husband, and 2 children have changed me both mentally and physically.  There was a time in my life that I wouldn't talk about my training runs unless I was able to maintain a certain pace.  As I've started running again following my second baby, I was ashamed of my training times.  I'm following the Jeff Galloway training plan for beginner half-marathoners which embraces a run/walk strategy.  This is perfect for what I need as I ease my way back into training, but clearly those days of sub-10 minute miles for training runs are gone. . .at least for now.

Then it hit me.  Why am I hiding behind a stopwatch and training plan embarassed by what I'm doing? Shouldn't I be proud?  How awesome is it that I'm training to accomplish a bucket list goal of a half-marathon in the same year that I gave birth to my second child?  It seemed hypocritical that I constantly talk to students about doing their best, while I hide my hard work because I'm afraid it's not good enough.  That's not the spirit of Walt Disney. . .

Remember my runDisney friends, running is about embracing the best you and not worrying about others along the way.  I'm learning to enjoy the journey instead of worrying so much about the destination.  So when you see me at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in a few weeks, say hi to me - I'll be the one in the last corral with the big smile on my face!

Slow and steady. . .and having fun training for runDisney!

Behind the Magic at the New Amsterdam Theatre

As part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road event in New York City, we were treated to a backstage tour of the New Amsterdam theatre.  Currently, the New Amsterdam Theatre, located on 7th Avenue and 42nd Street, is home to Disney’s Broadway hit, Aladdin.  While the show is relatively new to Broadway, the New Amsterdam theatre has a rich history and Disney has a tradition on Broadway that spans more than two decades.

We learned how they make miniature stages to plan out scenery and character placement.
The theatre itself was built in 1903 in the Art Nouveau style.  I’m not an architect or an artist, but I can say that it’s beautiful.  To give you an idea of the opulence and beauty inside the theater, it cost more than a million dollars to build back at the turn of the 20th century - think about how much that was back then!  Inside the theatre soft, muted colors and natural theming abound.  The theatre is also curvilinear meaning that you will rarely find a straight line inside.  While the theatre's history on Broadway has both its ups and downs, Disney has worked with the City of New York to restore this gem and keep it a treasured landmark of Old Broadway. 

Our tour guide shared lots of details about each Disney on Broadway show.
Enough of the history – let’s get to the fun stuff!  Disney on Broadway offers a Behind the Magic Tour of the theatre to groups of 10 or more.  We were treated to this unique and entertaining tour as part of our day.  The highlight of the tour (for me at least) was visiting the prop room.  Not only did we get the chance to see Broadway props and costumes from hits like Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King, but we also got to try them on and play with them.  Fun fact – the lioness headdress that I’m wearing below costs $7,000! 

The prop room was nothing short of amazing!

A big part of what I love about Disney is they know how to tap into the kid in all of us.  While I haven’t had the chance to see a Disney production on Broadway before, I now have a new appreciation for the work of the Disney team to bring magic to life each and every night.  I hope to be back soon for a night out on the town!

2015 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road Recap

I felt as though I was still flying in a cloud of pixie dust from that magical email that had arrived about 3 weeks earlier inviting me to attend the #DisneySMMC event in New York City.  And it’s a good thing.  I needed all the pixie dust (and coffee!) I could find when my alarm went off at 2:30 AM on Monday, June 15.  With a spoonful of sugar to help the coffee go down and a Disney Bounding outfit ready to go, I boarded a 4:25 AM train out of Maryland and was on my way to the Big Apple. 

The New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City

"Genie, I wish for an amazing conference." Wish granted!

The day began with registration, breakfast, “swag bags,” a photo op, and pin trading all before 8:30 AM.  This was a great way to kick off the celebration and begin conversations with fellow bloggers and social media moms.  Unfortunately, nobody was interested in my pin so, alas, no pin trading for me – but the photo op and props added a great deal of fun as everyone showed their #DisneySide.

The props at the Disney photo booth were a lot of fun!
Yummy breakfast. . .and the much appreciated coffee!!

The event was held at the New Amsterdam Theatre, which is home to Disney’s Broadway production of Aladdin.  Promptly at 8:30 AM, we were invited upstairs to make our Broadway debut as we found our seats on stage at the theatre for the conference to begin.  Leanne O’Regan began the day with a welcome and a brief overview of some of the upcoming magic at Disney Parks and other vacation destinations in the Disney family.  I’ll have more on that in a later post!

Leanne welcoming us to he conference.

Ready to learn!
The learning component of the conference was made up of a series of speakers from both Disney and other brands speaking to us about building our brand and presence on social media.  Some of my favorite tips of the day included:

  • Make lists to get creative.  When you force your brain to list 10 - 12 ideas, you push past logic and see where your creativity can take you. - Jenn from the Disney Parks Blog (@DisneyParksJenn)
  • Apps like Magisto and Videolicious allow you to turn your photos and videos into professional looking content quickly and easily. - Victoria Lim (@VictoriaLim)
  • Tweet on trending topics, but through the lens of your brand. - The editing team from Babble (@Babble) 
  • Be personal, be creative, and craft a unique voice. - Melissa Kraxenberg (@ladyandprince) 

The day wrapped up with a visit from the mouse himself, Mickey!  Then we received a special surprise – a backstage tour of the New Amsterdam theatre.  There was so much history and fun packed into that tour that I’m dedicating a separate post to that later on.

I'm like a little kid. . .thrilled to have a photo op with Mickey Mouse!

Sadly, the day came to end all too quickly.  But our “swag bags” gave us lots of goodies to remember the day and embrace our #DisneySide.  As someone relatively new to the world of social media and blogging, the event was such a great opportunity to learn from some amazing speakers and gave me lots of ideas to take back and improve my blog.  And, the Disney fan in me enjoyed every pixie-dusted surprise of the day!
Thanks for a great day!

I'm Going On The Road!

The Friday before Memorial Day weekend is generally a reason for celebration.  It signals the start of summer, warmer weather, and the beginning of a holiday weekend to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  The weekend also carries with it cookouts and time with family and friends.  But this year, that particular Friday was sprinkled with a little extra magic.

"Kristi, you just received a pixie dusted email.  What are you going to do know?"

I'm going to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in New York City!

Each year, Disney celebrates bloggers and social media mom influencers with a conference in either Disneyland or Walt Disney World plus a few other one day celebrations known as "On the Road" events.  Invites to each of these are anxiously anticipated and highly coveted!  No one quite knows the magic formula to get invited to one of the conferences as invitees range from novices in the world of social media to some big time bloggers and individuals with thousands of Twitter followers.  This year, by the grace of some Disney magic, I've been invited to attend Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road in New York City.  I couldn't have been more excited to see that little ol' me was invited after just beginning my journey into the world of blogging a little over a year ago.

So what am I hoping to take away from the day?

Disney Surprises! - Everything Disney does is done well!  I can't wait to see the magic and surprises that await us in NYC.  Even though the conference is only 5 hours, I'm sure it will be packed with all of the special Disney touches that only Disney can do.

Learning - I am certainly new to the world of social media and blogging.  While my Twitter, Instagram, and blog following have grown a lot in the past few months, I have a lot to learn to continue my journey in the world of social media!

Meeting Friends - The Disney social media community is so wonderful and supportive.  Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook I feel like I've come to know some great ladies (and some Disney Dads too!) who are as passionate about Disney as I am even though we've never met.  Half the fun of yesterday, was celebrating with others invited and planning to say "hi" in the Big Apple!

In the weeks ahead, look for posts as I get ready to attend and then, of course, some follow-up posts on what I learned!  And for those of you on social media, follow the excitement by looking for #DisneySMMC and #Disney OTR on Twitter and Instagram.

Spring is in the Air

The title of this post is somewhat ironic.  Today is officially the first day of Spring and in the always crazy state of Maryland, we have snow.  While Springtime in Maryland can bring either flowers or snow, Disney has a more regular welcome to the Spring season - Epcot's Annual Flower and Garden Festival.

Dan and I attended the Flower and Garden Festival back in 2011 on an April trip to Disney over the Easter holiday.  It was truly a sight to see!  The detail that goes into each display is amazing and it's another reason why you need more than a day to experience everything that Epcot has to offer - especially from the adult perspective.  Below are just a few of the highlights from our visit:

The Flower and Garden Festival runs roughly from March - May each year in Epcot.  So what can you expect if you get the chance to attend?  Besides the great topiaries, you can also experience some delicious food from unique seasonal dining experiences and concerts in the park.  This is definitely an event the whole family can enjoy and is one not to be missed on a Spring trip to Walt Disney World!