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Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Friday: A high-up view of MK fireworks

View of the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from the Contemporary Resort
Welcome to another Photo Friday!

As we get set to celebrate New Year's Eve (if you'are at the parks right now, I feel your pain for all the lines!), I thought I'd share a fireworks photo from a unique perspective -- near the top of the Contemporary Resort.

I happened to book a Magic Kingdom view room back in January 2011 and was astounded at the jaw-dropping view of the Magic Kingdom.  Imagine having this view outside your window day and night.  It was well worth the extra cost.

One of the best perks was what you see here -- an incredible view of the fireworks! 

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Prepping for Marathon Weekend

Half-marathon start in 2010
Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Well, there's less than two weeks away until the 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  I've been in training (not enough) for my first ever full marathon.  About a month ago, I shared my thoughts for some of the best spectator spots to cheer on runners.

This week, I want to delve into some of the ways runners can get prepared for the event.

First, of course is to train (again, something I have not done enough of ).  RunDisney has developed a great partnership with famed marathon runner and trainer Jeff Galloway to provide the Galloway Training System -- a reasonable schedule where runners can get prepared for a half or full marathon with a series of short and long runs.  I've tried to follow this system as much as I could and I can see how it can really be helpful for those new to the marathon experience.

Beyond training, there are some things runners will need to have "on board" with them as they complete the course.
  1. Food:  Non-runners might think that a runner will need to eat a lot during an event to keep energy levels up.  In my experience, that's really not the case.  Yes, runners should have an energy bar or two on hand during the event, but most runners I've talked to don't want all that much food with them - mostly because that's extra weight to carry.  Also, there are four food stations (during the full marathon) located along the 2nd half of the course.  At these stations (according to other WDW Radio Running Team Members) are bananas, chocolate chip bars, energy packets (usually Gu - see below) and other items.  "Best bananas ever," so they say.  I do recommend eating a banana because it's so high in potassium, which will help.
  2. Fluids:  Runners need a lot.  But the good news is they don't need to carry any at all.  This is one of the biggest differences between a running event and training runs.  In a training run, runners have to carry water with them - quite a bit, especially on long runs.  In a running event, there are plenty of water/Powerade stations for runners to keep hydrated, so there's no need to carry their own water. 
    • Half Marathon:  Water/Powerade stations are located at:
      • Just past Mile 1
      • Mile 3.5
      • Mile 4.5
      • Just past Mile 6
      • Just past Mile 7
      • Just past Mile 9
      • Just past Mile 10
      • Mile 11
      • Just past Mile 12
      • Finish (Mile 13.1)
    • Full Marathon:  Water/Powerade stations are located at:
      • Just past Mile 1
      • Just past Mile 2
      • Just before Mile 4.5
      • Mile 6.5
      • Just past Mile 7
      • Mile 8.5
      • Just past Mile 9
      • Just past Mile 11
      • Just past Mile 12
      • Mile 13.5
      • Just past Mile 14
      • Just past Mile 15
      • Mile 16
      • Mile 17.5
      • Mile 18.5
      • Mile 19.5
      • Mile 20.5
      • Just past Mile 21
      • Just past Mile 22
      • Mile 23
      • Mile 24
      • Just before Mile 25
      • Finish (Mile 26.2)
  3. Energy:  While runners will need a bit of food and lots of water/Powerade, they will need some additional kicks of energy as they go through the course.  That's where energy chews and Gu come into play.  What are these?  Energy chews are flavored gummies that contain a high amount of caffiene, vitamins and electrolytes to help keep runners' energy levels up.  Gu is a similar product that's more, well, gooey.  For my upcoming run, I've purchased several packets of energy chews and two packets of Gu.  Between these, my energy bars and the Powerade, I should have all the energy I need.  Oh, and don't slack off the energy products just because you're close to the finish!  I did that in a recent half-marathon and nearly hit the wall inside the last mile - it probably cost me 3-5 minutes.
  4. Communication:  It's a good idea to have a cell phone handy to keep touch with friends and family looking to cheer runners on.  It's also a good way to share the running experience with others through social media (just be careful texting and running!).  I'm planning to stream portions of my run live via Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/disneydaddy so I hope to see you online!
  5. Pictures!!!:  There are tons (and I mean tons) of photo opportunities while out on the race course, so it's a very good idea for runners to have some sort of camera with them.  I'd suggest bringing a camera that has a flash, be it point-and-shoot or cellphone.  Also, if you're running with friends (something else I strongly suggest), you'll want some of those on-the-road pictures.  They're some of the best shots you'll have during the event.  Just be mindful of your time.  You have to maintain at least a 16-minute per mile pace, so don't get swept because you were standing in line for photo after photo (and there will be lines).  That being said, one photo I do recommend a decent wait for is with Jack Sparrow (if it's offered this year).  It's usually located backstage just after the runners leave Frontierland.  It's a great opportunity that's not normally available in the parks.
Next week, I'll wrap up my thoughts about preparing for Marathon weekend, including dealing with the (sometimes) unpredictable winter Florida weather.

If you're in training -- keep it up!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Photo Friday: Hark the Herald Angel

Epcot Christmas tree angel
Welcome to another Photo Friday!

Well, it's the final week before Christmas, so it's time to present what may be my best Christmas-related photo (thus far).  I took this shot in December 2008.  There was a full moon so I managed to position my photography position to get the full moon into the frame. 

I hope you enjoy this shot and I hope you and your family have a very happy and safe Christmas!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Holidays Around the World

Los Treos Magos
Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

With Christmas just days away, I wanted to share a special holiday event at Epcot that my family and I enjoy whenever we're at the parks during the holidays.  In most of the World Showcase pavilions, Disney presents a holiday story complete with the traditions of that host country.  For example, at the Mexico pavilion, the Los Tres Reyos Magos (pictured above) present the story of the three wise men who go to visit the baby Jesus in the manger.

In China, we meet the Monkey King and hear his tale of how he got into trouble and his redemption with a monk.  In Germany, we meet Helga to learn about the different Christmas traditions, including the tradition of the Christmas Tree pickle.  In Italy, we meet Le Befana the Christmas Witch and about the Epiphany celebrations in Italy, while in England we meet Father Christmas, and in France we meet Pierre Noel.  Papa Noel is in Canada.

Holidays around the world
Perhaps my most favorite holiday story is that of Julenissen, the Norwegian Holiday Elf and his "assistant" Sigrid.  They two tell a wonderful story of the holidays in Norway and Julenissen's love of porridge.

If you're thinking of seeing these different storytellers, you'll want to arrive at each location about 15 minutes early in order to get a good view, perhaps even 30 minutes early during the busy post-Christmas week.  Check the daily times guide for presentation times.  Be sure to have a camera ready because most of the storytellers will stick around for photos after their presentation.

Next week, we're getting ready for the marathon.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Once Upon a Time" is the next LOST

Once Upon a Time
I don't know about you, but my family and I are hooked on ABC's newest drama "Once Upon a Time."  (Sunday, 8pm EST) The show is all about how many of the most well-known fairy tale characters are thrust into our world but have no idea who they really are... that is until Emma comes to town.

What I really like about this show is how we discover the past in "Fairy Tale land" at the same time we see what happens in the present in Storybrooke.  It's a wonderful mystery.  We know who these characters really are,  what we don't know is what will make them remember and how.  As we learn more, we also see and experience the great chemistry among the cast, especially between Emma and Regina, the mayor (of course Regina also is latin for Queen). 
 
Be careful, this show can be addictive... very addictive.  It's from the creators of LOST and it has every bit of the same intrique and mystery that LOST did.  I anticipate "Once Upon a Time" becoming the next really big hit for ABC, again, just like LOST.  I think "Once" might even have a bigger following because it's more family-friendly than LOST was.  Case in point:  my children can't wait to see the next episode and already have their favorite characters.

Now that we're into the holiday season, there unfortunately won't be any new episodes until Jan. 8, 2012.
 
But if you haven't seen the show, now's a great time to get caught up.  If you're already a fan, now's a good time to watch each episode again to see what you might have missed the first time.  ABC.com has put all 7 complete episodes online at http://abc.tv/OnceUponATimeEpisodeGuide.  I've gone back and watched a few already to see if I can pick up on a few more clues to the overall mystery of the curse (watch the first episode, you'll know what I'm talking about).

What do you think about "Once Upon a Time?" Take our poll!  Who's your favorite character?  Post a comment!
 
And never forget, "All magic comes with a price."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photo Friday: A "Magic"al Christmas Tree

Main Street USA at Christmas
Welcome to another Photo Friday!

With just over a week to go until Christmas, I think it's time to start enjoying some Christmas trees!  Here is a nice view of the Magic Kingdom Christmas tree from the 2nd floor balcony of the Main Street Railroad Station.  There's nothing so magical and wonderful like a huge Christmas tree full of lights...

Oh, and if you like Christmas trees, just wait until you see the shot I've been saving for the final Friday before Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Last minute Disney holiday shopping

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

Ok, here's the 'sitch (to borrow a line from Kim Possible):  there's only 12 days left until Christmas and you want to get your special someone that perfect Disney gift that you remember seeing at the parks on your last trip.  There's one little problem -- it's not sold online at DisneyStore.com.  What do you do?

You are not without hope.  Disney has an entire staff of "shoppers" ready to find that special item for you.  It's called the WDW Mail Order Service.

All you need to do is call them at 407-363-6200 or send an e-mail to wdw.mail.order@disneyworld.com to place an order. Be sure to give as much information about the item as possible so the folks at Disney can try to find it for you.

Now, I hate to be a Grinch, but I do have to tell you that if the item you're looking for is sold out in the parks or resorts, you might be out of luck.

I've used this service a few times and it's been very handy.  In fact, I've even called in advance to have some items delivered to my resort so they were at the front desk when I checked in.  Best of all, it doesn't cost a thing!

If you are trying to get that last-minute Disney item -- good luck!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Photo Friday: MK entrance at the holidays

Main St. USA Train Station at the holidays
Welcome to another Photo Friday!

We're another week closer to Christmas.  This week, I thought I'd share a shot from Dec. 2008 showing the entrance to the Magic Kingdom all decked out for the holidays.  I especially like the rich blue sky in this shot.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Seeing the castle lighting

Cinderella Castle Dreamlights
Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

As we continue to celebrate the holidays, I wanted to share a few tips about another magical event that takes place nightly at the Cinderella Forecourt Stage in the Magic Kingdom, and that's the lighting of Cinderella Castle. 

If you're never seen the Cinderella Castle "Dreamlights" (as they're called), then you must try to see this in person.  Like the Osborne Lights at Disney Hollywood Studios, photos and/or videos just don't do it justice.  It is truly a spectacle to behold.

Now the lights don't just come one once it gets dark.  This is Disney, which means we have to have some fanfare and a little bit of magic. 

Cinderella Castle Dreamlights
 

Each night around dusk, Mickey, Minnie and the gang come out to enjoy the evening and notice how everything's decorated for the holidays... everything but the castle that is.  After a bit of discussion about how the castle should the decorated, the Fairy Godmother intervenes and asks Cinderella how she would like her castle decorated.  Naturally, Cinderella wants her castle to shine with ice and snow (even in Florida).

Remember what I said about magic?  Well the Fairy Godmother (with a little help from the audience) magically adds shimmering ice to decorate the castle for the holidays.

Disney's Imagineers really outdid themselves on this effort.  When we all heard the Imagineers were thinking of "plussing" up the castle for the holidays, visions of pink birthday cake danced (more like exploded) in our heads.  Instead, the Imagineers took one of the most photographed building in the world and made it even better.  In all, more than 250,000 LED lights adorn the castle.  What's really impressive is that the Imagineers wove the lights into specially dyed fishing nets, so there's no tangling and, with the dyed net, the lights are nearly invisible except when viewed close up.  From the hub, you have a hard time even seeing them.

Ok, so now that I've got you dying to see this wondrous sight... just where's the best place to see it?

You can stand anywhere around the hub and if you're really interested in the stage show, you may want to plan to stand close up.  I personally like being farther back so I can take in the entire vista.  I recommend standing along the railing in front of the Crystal Palace.  You won't have anyone in front of you and it's a great vantage point.  The railing in front of the Plaza Restaurant also is a good spot.

Be sure to find a spot about 15-30 minutes before the show starts! 

See you next week!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Want more Prep and Landing?

Prep and Landing

The newest Prep and Landing special just aired about a hour ago on ABC and I have to say it was absolutely "tinsel!!"  Avoiding re-hashing the same storyline as the original, this new show still maintains the "James Bond" look and feel in a completely new direction. I also appreciated the emphasis on family and how, even at the holidays (ok, especially at the holidays) we all can get on each other's nerves a bit.

If you're like me and you're looking for even more Prep and Landing fun, the folks over at ABC.com have you covered.  Just check out the Prep and Landing page for more fun including all-new webisodes, "behind-the-scenes" videos and more!

You also can watch the special Prep and Landing short, "Operation Secret Santa."

So get your goggles ready.  It's Jingle time!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Photo Friday: Standing guard at the Osborne Lights

Osborne Lights
Welcome to another Photo Friday!

As we continue our holiday-themed photos, I wanted to share a picture from my favorite holiday event at Walt Disney World - the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  This (and pretty much any other photo you see) really don't do the Osborne Lights justice -- they truly are that spectacular.

I took this photo while waiting in line to take a PhotoPass picture with the light switch and the trees/soldiers seen here.  You can see that photo in this week's Tip Tuesday post. Like most night photography, you really need to find a way to hold your camera very still and allow the shutter to be open for a longer time (this shot had a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second).  I also like the slightly odd angle to the image - it just looks different.

I hope you enjoy this and more holiday photos from Walt Disney World!