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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Photo Friday: Playing with fire, literally

Aloha! Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week, we're heading to the Spirit of Aloha dinner show a the Polynesian Resort. At the end of the performance, a fire dancer comes on stage and amazes the crowd with his ability to literally play with fire.

I especially like this particular shot because the image refracted a bit, making it look like his hair is on fire as well!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tip Tuesday: "Scary" is a relative term

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I want to begin this week's tip with quick story.

My family and I were at Disney's Hollywood Studios in December 2008 and my younger son (who was about 8 at the time) really wanted to ride the Rock-n-Roller Coaster. He'd never been on the attraction before. I described the experience, giving great emphasis on the launch at the beginning and asked again if he wanted to ride.

He said yes.

So I got a pair of FastPasses and a little while later we were boarding the car and off we went. From the moment we launched, I knew this was a bad idea. I don't think I've ever seen a look of terror like I did on his face when we went from 0 to 60 in a hearbeat. Fortunately the ride only lasts a few minutes and we pulled into the unload area.

"I am NEVER riding that again!!" he said.

Six months later, he swore he had changed his mind, so we waited in a 60 minute line in sweltering heat (we already had FastPasses) only for him to change his mind at the last second when he saw one of the cars in front of us launch away.

The "chicken door" is there for a reason.

Now I tell you this story to tell you this week's tip: just because you think your children can handle a potentially scary attraction, don't assume it.

There are plenty of attractions at Walt Disney World that, for whatever reason, might be scary to some children (or even adults). It could be due to the scary content, like the Haunted Mansion; or due to the intense experience, like Rock-n-Roller Coaster or both, like the Tower of Terror.

Even rides you might not think are scary could be frightning to some. Ever been afraid of the dark? Imagine being in something apparently harmless like the TTA Peoplemover, but have a fear of the dark... that ride around Space Mountain can become something truly terrifying.

So if you or someone else has a few fears (don't we all!), you might want to do a bit of research to find out about attractions before you're put into a potentially frightning situation.

There are several resources out there: Just about every attraction can be found on YouTube, so you can watch a first-person ridethrough. Also, read up on the attractions. There are plenty of descriptions on the official Walt Disney World Web site as well as sites like Also check out a new site dedicated to classifying the terror factor of rides, The Disney Ride Classification Program.

I've checked out this site and it's pretty good. If you have a concern about a particular attraction, you can look it up to see it's rating and a description of the experience.

Before you set out for the parks and plan to ride attractions like Mission: Space (orange) or Dinosaur!, do a bit of research to find out what you're in for. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Keep an eye open for those magical moments

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week's tip comes from my wonderful wife, who reminded me of something she's always reminding me about on Disney trips. I'm one who's constantly looking at the Disney details, you know, those little homages to Imagineers, dates, or any other obscure reference Disney geeks thrive on.

My wife, on the other hand, is on the lookout for those magical moments and wants me to capture them -- like this moment you see above. My younger son is less-than-thrilled at how Main Street USA Town Councilman Dewey Cheatum is playing with him. I just love the looks on both faces.

The tip here is simple: take the time and keep your eye open for those little magical moments that are out there. They don't have to be a huge production, it might just be a fun interaction with streetmosphere characters, it might be just laughing at a character's antics during a parade, or it might be just a chance to sit down and enjoy being together in the most magical place on Earth.

Take those moments when they come, because they will never come again. The attractions aren't going anywhere.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Photo Friday: Lights, Camera, Action!

Welcome to another Photo Friday!

This week, I wanted to share a classic photo from Disney's Hollywood Studios. One of the signature nighttime shots from DHS is of the Sorcerer Mickey hat with the spotlights behind. This is a pretty easy shot to take, if you have the right approach. I took this shot with my Canon XTi and set it on top of a trash can to serve as a tripod. A few test shots in manual mode and here's the final result!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Enjoying the Food & Wine Festival

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, we're heading over to Epcot for the 16th Food and Wine Festival (yum!).

This year's Festival features more 25 international marketplaces offering tapas-sized portions paired with beer, wine and inventive new cocktails.

Marketplace tasting menus offer variety and adventure for guests on a mission to tantalize their taste buds during a scenic stroll around the 40-acre World Showcase Lagoon. The adventure can take them to the festival’s first Hawaii marketplace, which will cook up Kalua pork sliders and tuna poke with seaweed salad and lotus root chips to team with a refreshing Seven Tiki Mai Tai or a Kona Longboard or Pipeline beer. A new Caribbean Islands marketplace will serve ropa vieja with rice and jerk-spiced chicken with mango salsa. A beverage menu featuring a frozen Dragon Berry Colada and frozen Rock Coconut Mojito is sure to conjure steel-drum fantasies.

With a swing across the Atlantic, guests will be transported to the new Portugal marketplace, where guests can pair a red, white or port wine with calamari salad with olives and smoked paprika or Linguica sausage with onions, peppers and olives. The Scandinavia marketplace will return after a hiatus with a fresh new Xante Sunshine cocktail made from Xante pear and cognac liquer. And the Canada marketplace will introduce a sweet treat: apple ice wine.

With all these opportunities, it can be a bit overwhelming, so I've put together a few tips to help you best experience the Food and Wine Festival (or F&W for short):

Take your time and take more than just one day
F&W is simple huge. Don't believe me? Take a look at the guidemap to see just how many kiosks are available this year. With so many options, it's simply not possible to sample everything in a single day. Also, if you try to rush it, all you'll end up doing is making yourself sick and not enjoying the different cuisines. So if you have the time, I strongly suggest devoting two afternoons/evenings to enjoying the Festival. If you only have one day, then you'd better....

Make a plan
Given that there are so many kiosks and given that F&W is VERY popular, especially on the weekends (more on that in a moment), it's a good idea to download the guidemap and make a note of which marketplaces are high on your priority list. Plan your touring based on these key locations and don't try to cram in as much as possible. Visit your key locations, and enjoy those. You can always come back another year.

Go mid-week and start early
Like I mentioned earlier, F&W is very popular, especially Fridays through Sundays. If your schedule allows, try to visit the F&W during early to mid week (Mondays through Thursdays) to avoid the worst of the crowds, though even on those off-days, there still will be crowds in the evenings. The best way to avoid the crowds (in addition to visiting on a weekday) is to start your F&W touring right at 11am when World Showcase opens. Have an early lunch and stay for an early dinner! Like I said earlier, it's important to take your time. Yes you're there to eat, but you're also doing some walking, and while it's now Fall, Florida still can get pretty warm in the afternoons, so you don't want to overeat and make yourself sick - that's no fun.

Get the gift card
In the past few years, Disney has offered a special F&W gift card attached to a plastic bracelet. This is a gift card you and preload with a certain amount of money and then use wherever you want. This is a great way to avoid pulling out your wallet (or purse) again and again as you go from kiosk to kiosk. Just pull the bracelet card off your wrist, give a quick swipe, and you're good to go! (My thanks to our friends at the DisneyFoodBlog for the card photo!).

So there you are... a few tips to help you on your next trip to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. For more information, be sure to check out the Food & Wine Festival page on the Disney Web site.

Until next time Bon Appetit!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It all started 40 years ago today...

Today marks a very special day for me and for countless Disney fans. Today in 1971 the Magic Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World.

While I was not there in person (I was only 9 months old), I have felt connected to Walt Disney World for as long as I can remember.

Since that moment, central Florida, the nation and the world have never been the same. Within a few years, WDW was THE place for people to visit and it has become a rite of passage for American families and a destination for victorious athletes (remember "I'm going to Disney World!").

On behalf of myself and the millions of Disney fans around the world, I want to wish a very happy birthday to Walt Disney World and to all those cast members who have been with the parks for 40 years and I also wish all the best for the next 40 years!

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