Epcot International Flower And Garden Festival

My favorite season in Disney is Flower and Garden Festival! The weather is near perfect, there’s flowers galore, and every weekend there are outdoor concerts by a variety of great bands. 

This year, Flower and Garden begins March 2 and goes through May 30. And as if  this annual event couldn’t get any better, a few years ago they added outdoor kitchens which is essentially an extension of Food And Wine Festival in spring!

  

Great food, music, 30 million flowers and 70 different  topiaries! Does it get better than that?

A favorite of mine is the butterfly garden, where the butterflies roam free and often land on guests. It’s best to visit this area a few weeks into the festival so you can see the more than 10 species of butterflies. Another highlight is a small group of performers called the Jamitors. They play amazing music with pots, pans, trash can lids and 5 gallon buckets! 

So if you have the opportunity to visit Epcot in spring, you just can’t miss the Flower and Garden Festival!

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Can The Fans Save Off Kilter?

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Change is necessary. But it’s not always good.
Disney recently announced it will replace some of Epcot’s entertainment in the World Showcase to make way for new shows and performances.
Off Kilter, the Celtic rock band that has entertained many guests in Epcot since it opened in 1982, is part of those performers being cut.
Off Kilter fans are mad, and have organized a campaign to “Save Off Kilter.”
And although I agree that some performers need replacing in Epcot, I don’t agree with replacing Off Kilter.
The band’s last performance is September 27th.
So for the last 2 weekends, we’ve made our way to Epcot to listen to some of Off Kilter’s last performances. And while they know these are their last shows, they give it their all – just like they always have.
The kilt- wearing bagpipe playing band always draws a crowd, and appeals to all ages. Located in the Canada Pavillion, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy a beverage while listening to a performance.
You can always count on hearing favorites like “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” and “Amazing Grace.”
One Off Kilter fan from Michigan told me she just doesn’t understand why Disney would replace Off Kilter with log rollers. She admitted she’d probably watch that once, adding that she watches Off Kilter perform on every trip to Disney.
So I hope that Disney hears the Off Kilter fans loud and clear and finds a way to keep this Epcot classic performing for many years.

It’s Likely The Calm Before The Storm

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If you spent time in Epcot this weekend you probably noticed how empty it was. You could call that Disney in September but it’s also likely the calm before the storm. Next weekend begins Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – the most anticipated event of the year for food, wine and craft beer enthusiasts.
It’s a party for your taste buds and an opportunity to taste the culinary delights from various countries, craft beer and a plethora of wines.
Small appetizer sized portions of various foods can be purchased, usually priced between $3.50 – $5.00.
Due to its popularity, this festival gets longer every year. It will run for 53 days this year from September 19 through November 10.
Saturday evening small groups of festival cast members could be seen throughout the World Showcase getting their last-minute instructions.
And while you nibble your way around the world, you can see performances in the Eat To The Beat Concert Series which features performances such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Smash Mouth and Boyz ll Men just to mention a few.
Mixology seminars and cooking demonstrations along with many other mini events will occur during the festival.
Although the festival itself draws large crowds, if you plan to attend expect weekdays to be only slightly less crowded.

Disney Cruising

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Taking a Disney Cruise is the natural progression for those who have made a trip or two (or 17) to Walt Disney World.

In the fall I  had the opportunity to take a Disney Land and Sea vacation  and spent a couple of days in the Disney parks while staying at Disney’s Yacht Club resort and then on to Port Canaveral where I boarded  the Disney Dream for a 3 night Bahamas cruise.

Many people think Disney Cruises are just for families with children, but I traveled with adults and there was plenty for us to do including some adult only areas of the ship!

A self-serve soda station offers free soda on the pool deck.

They also have an ice cream station near the pool – a great way to cool off after swimming.

I  purchased an adult beverage in a souvenir cup for $9.99 and that cup could be refilled with the drink of the day for $4.85. I had to ask the Cast Member to repeat the refill price because I couldn’t believe there could be a drink under $5 on a cruise ship!

As we all know, Disney knows how to entertain! And the Broadway-style shows – Golden Mickey’s, The Villains, and Believe – were all excellent and I recommend you don’t miss them.

The easy access to characters on the Disney Dream was another real treat! There were character meet and greets set up on the ship and when we got off the ship at Castaway Cay, there were no lines to get pictures with Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale and Donald Duck!

A signature attraction on the Dream is the Aqua Duck, the clear-tubed water coaster with Disney’s signature drops and turns. The line for this attraction can get long but if you ride it when you board the ship or closer to dinner time, you can have it almost to yourself! Disney has rotational dining in its restaurants on the Dream. You’ll be assigned a restaurant each night and your serving staff will follow you to those restaurants. Remy and Palo are the adult only restaurants you can choose to go to but reservations are a must.

Room service was complimentary so I woke up every day to my fresh pot of coffee.  I would pour a cup and sit on the balcony and watch the sun rise and the ocean go by.  I also enjoyed the view from there watching the ship docking at the port. I don’t think there’s anything  more relaxing.

The Disney-themed kids clubs on the ship such as “Andy’s Room,” made me almost want to be a kid again. And I loved the hand-washing station where children just insert their hands and the washing (via spraying with soap and water) is done for you!

Another feature that Disney Cruises have is their fireworks show that tops off Pirate Night on the ship – another not-to-be-missed night-time spectacular. Didn’t bring any pirate-wear? No worries! Everyone gets a pirate bandana for each person in your cabin!

My only regret on this cruise was that I hadn’t cruised on a Disney Cruise sooner, and that I’d wished the cruise was longer. But taking the 3-day cruise was a great way to try a Disney Cruise and to determine  that I definitely want to take another (longer) one!

Getting My Disney Legs On (And Feet Too!)

I think it’s easier on the legs if you’re taking a Disney vacation in the fall rather than the Spring!
Why?
Because I’ve spent the winter wrapped up in a warm blanket watching TV and making excuses not to go out into the cold for that 10 minute drive to the gym. And now it’s crunch time (not to be confused with crunches time because that’s a whole different blog post!)
So as most of you who have been to Disney know, there’s a lot of walking done in a Disney vacation.
How much?
Well, our daughters took pedometers during one trip and we averaged out the miles we walked that week and it ranged between 11-14 miles a day!
I’ve heard runners say they’re still not prepared for all the walking even with all the running they do!
But I do try to get some extra walking in ahead of time so I don’t have sore leg muscles in addition to my sore feet!
The feet are a whole different problem with a stress fracture twice before, forcing me to have to wear really supportive and very expensive shoes.
I don’t like sneakers when it’s hot so that means I need to find a good pair of sandals before I go. I naturally gravitate to something flip flop-ish but dear old foot doctor thinks I need heel support!
Crocs are out of the question because they “are like having your feet in marshmallows.” (More foot doctor advice!)
I’ve previously worn Clark’s, they worked well. But now I’m looking at Keen Sandals.
Arch support, keeping my feet cool and comfortable are most important. And they at least need a strap around my heel.
So if you have any recommendations please share them!

To Fly Or Drive Down I-95

For most of my Disney trips the decision to fly or drive is an easy one….FLY!
But this year the airfare is so high (over $400 per person!) that we’ve decided to drive.
The last time we drove to Walt Disney World was 2004, right after hurricane Charlie hit Orlando. Our flight was cancelled out of Philly because the terminal in Orlando was damaged from the hurricane. And they told us we wouldn’t get on another flight for days. I looked at my husband and said, “do you know how to drive to Florida?” He said, “two roads, I-95 and I-4.”
Next thing we knew, we were in the car, driving to Walt Disney World.
We had nothing prepared for a driving trip but a stop at a Wal-Mart in Virginia fixed that.
Looking back on that trip, it was one of our most memorable ones!
This year is a little different. We are actually planning to drive so we will be more prepared with cooler, snacks, and even better technology than the last trip! Did you know there’s an I-95 Exit Guide app? It gives you details on what restaurants, hotels and gas stations are located at each exit!
Another benefit to driving is no limits on luggage! Not that I would take too much, it’s always what I want to bring back!
I’ve made advance hotel reservations for an overnight on the way down and the return trip, based on where we expect to be. And even that was easier to plan with maps that show construction locations and estimated arrival times.
While there’s not really a need for a car in Disney ( since they transport you everywhere) it will be nice to see more of Florida than the road from the airport to our Disney resort.
Driving does add 2 days to our trip but it will be our 10th anniversary celebration, so driving will make it more of an adventure!

It Even Gets Cold In Disney

If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World in January or February, be sure to check the weather forecast for Orlando before you go!
It’s currently 35 degrees in Walt Disney World and is forecast to only reach a high of 47 degrees today. And while this weather isn’t quite the norm, it can throw a monkey wrench into your vacation if you’re not prepared.
Fortunately for those in Disney this week, today’s chilly weather is short-lived and temperatures will be back up near 70 tomorrow.
But keep the weather in mind no matter when you plan to go to Disney!
I made a quick trip there over my birthday weekend in November and despite seeing “showers” in the forecast, I failed to take a raincoat. So when we had a full day of that light misty rain, I had no choice but to buy yet another Disney rain poncho…. For all four of us!