In the Shadow of the Mouse

Secrets of a theme park obsessed local who lives next door to Mickey, with annual passes to every Central Florida park

Win weeklong spring break pass for Airheads trampoline arena

Airheads Trampoline Arena in Orlando is a great place to let the kids burn off steam, or even to get some exercise yourself. Don’t believe it? Well, the kind folks at Airheads have provided a fun spring break prize that will let one family find out for themselves. If you’d like a chance to get a free one-week pass to Airheads for next week, send an email to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com with “Airheads” as the subject and your name in the body. You can only enter once from a particular email address. One email will be chosen randomly at noon on Sunday, March 23, to receive the two free unlimited jumping passes, which are good for six consecutive days from the first use. It must be used at the Orlando location, which is at 33 West Pineloch Avenue, Orlando, FL 32806.

bg1So what is Airheads all about? Well, it’s an indoor trampoline arena. so you never have to worry about the persnickety Florida weather with its persistent thunderstorms. The trampolines mean loads of bouncing fun, and you can take a break to buy a snack at the snack bar. Ambitious adults can even sign up for TrampoLean fitness classes that pick up where the Urban Rebounding trend left off. You can burn up to 1000 calories per class, and you’ll definitely work up a sweat. Better yet, it’s a low impact form of exercise that’s easier on the joints than traditional aerobics on a hard surface.

If you’d like to find out for yourself and you’re local to the Orlando area, send your email to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com with “Airheads” as the subject and your name in the body. Who knows, you might just score! The winner will be announced in In the Shadow of the Mouse on Monday and will receive a direct email with instructions on claiming the two free passes. Email addresses won’t be used for any purpose other than selecting a contest winner.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Dueling dragons at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida

blog1Yes, Dueling Dragons was once a  pair of suspended roller coasters at Islands of Adventure, but it’s long since been transformed into Dragon Challenge in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

But there’s a dragon duel of another sort in the Orlando area that’s heating up right now to explode in full force this summer. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort will feature fire-breathing dragons as part of their prominent new offerings for 2014.

The Disney Dragon

Over at the Magic Kingdom, Disney has a jump on the dragon duel with its steampunk Maleficent dragon in the Festival of Fantasy parade. The parade kicked off earlier this month, and perhaps its most impressive float is the towering dragon that fights Prince Phillip several times along the route. During the fight, it lets loose with a torrent of fiery breath. You can see the whole parade, including the fire, in the video below:

The Universal Dragon

Meanwhile, finishing touches are being put on Diagon Alley over at Universal Studios Florida. When it’s done, one of the most eye-catching set pieces will be the dragon perched atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank. If the video teaser below is accurate, that dragon will also wow guests with periodic blasts of fire. Of course, as anyone who’s ever ridden Revenge of the Mummy or Spiderman knows, Universal is quite fond of its pyro effects.

I know I’ll enjoy the two new fire-breathing dragons in town, but there’s one I really wish I could see again. I was lucky enough to see it live at the New Fantasyland media event in the Magic Kingdom in 2012. Not only does it breath fire, but it soars through the sky while doing so, as you can see in the video below. Seeing it gave me chills, and I’d love to see Disney work it into some sort of regular show, although I know the Florida weather isn’t very flying-dragon friendly in the stormy summer.

Oh well, the flying dragon may be on hiatus, but between Maleficent and Diagon Alley, Orlando dragon lovers will have plenty to thrill them at the theme parks this summer.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Quest for Chi at Legoland Florida goes green for St. Patrick’s Day

Before I moved into the shadow of the Mouse, I used to live in Chicago. There, it was an annual tradition to dye the Chicago River green each year on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t miss the cold and snow of my former hometown, but sometimes I miss those quirky traditions for which it’s known.

This year, I don’t have to miss it too much because there’s a perfect substitute at Legoland Florida. Craggar the Crocodile was caught in the act of dyeing the river in the Quest for Chi ride green just in time for the holiday. You can see him in action below:

bg9That means that the boats are running on a green river (no, not the delicious soda that I remember so well from my youth), and the Mount Cavora waterfall is also shamrock-colored. It’s quite a sight, and a perfect St. Patrick’s Day photo opportunity if you have kids between the ages of two and 12 and want to pop over to the park on March 17.

I don’t have kids myself, but I’m still a big Legoland Florida fan. As I recently reported, the beautifully restored Cypress Gardens area has plenty of appeal for those of us who like scenic areas and a slower pace. If you’re adventurous enough to take on the Quest for Chi ride, be warned: You will get wet. You will get very, very wet. Every boat is equipped with water cannons, so you’ll be drenched without mercy by others on the ride and spectators on the shore, who have their own guns. Sure, you can shoot them back, but that sweet, sweet vengeance won’t change the fact that you’re soaked to the skin.

If you’d like to take a virtual ride and stay nice and dry, check out the video below:

If you prefer to stay a little closer to the Disney area for your St. Patrick’s Day frolic, I recommend heading over to Downtown Disney and Raglan Road. I’ll end this post with a video of just a bit of the fun you can have over there:

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse.

Relax with celebrities and experts at Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

bg6Winter might not want to let go of some parts of the country, but Florida is warming up nicely already. It’s already spring at Walt Disney World, in the form of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, and sometimes it feels more like summer, with temperatures that are already popping up into the 80s.

Seeing the entire festival means a lot of walking to make sure you view every topiary and garden. If you need a spot to rest your feet and cool off, head over to the Wonders of Life pavil…oops, I mean Festival Center, and take in one of the informative talks. In case you’re not an old school Disney fan who remembers the center in its previous Met Life-sponsored incarnation, it’s located in Future World between Mission: Space and Ellen’s Energy Adventure.

The Festival Center features educational presentations every day. Some are done by local experts, but if you’re an HGTV or DIY fan, stop by on the weekends to see personalities from those networks’ shows. If you’d like to see what those talks are like, Vern Yip’s opening weekend presentation is below:

bg5The celebrities generally stick around to chat with the audience and sign autographs. I especially enjoyed Vern Yip’s presentation because he gave away gift bags and I actually managed to win one! The bag contained an issue of HGTV magazine and a Vern Yip vase, which I promptly asked him to sign. Based on his talk, I have some great ideas for what to put into it to perk up my home.

It’s always fun to see your favorite home improvement personalities, but the other speakers are a lot of fun, too. One of my favorites is Robert Bowden of Leu Gardens in Orlando. This is the third year I’ve seen him, and his talks are always packed with some great tips but punctuated with plenty of humor.

This year he talked about the hottest gardening trends, which you can see in the video below (sorry about the brief pause where the battery ran out). His presentations usually include a plant that you can pot and take home for your own garden. Just don’t plant it before he tells you to or you’ll be called out!

If you enjoy HGTV, I’ll toss in a couple of other videos. HGTV has been sponsoring the festival for several years now, and I had a chance to meet Genevieve Gorder back in 2011. Here’s a video from her media chat:

I also met Chris Lambton last year. Here’s his media talk:

And here’s my one-on-one interview:

If you plan to catch a talk, be sure to stake out a spot early. This is true for both the celebrities and local speakers. If you don’t get an actual seat for the HGTV and DIY personalities, you still might find a standing-room spot in close enough proximity to the stage to see and here what’s going on. For the other talks, you can also stand around to watch and listen, but you won’t get the take-home souvenir (if there’s one involved) unless you actually make it into the presentation seating area.

I’ll admit that listening to the talks makes me feel like a slug when I look at my own neglected garden at home. Still, I love getting new ideas and admiring the talent of the celebrity presenters and the local experts alike. The topiaries and gardens are fun, but the talks are another great way to enjoy the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and to take home some practical knowledge.

Locals’ Secret

Although the Festival Center is a nice place to kick back and relax later in the day, it’s also a great spot to visit early on. It opens at 10 a.m., while World Showcase doesn’t open until 11 a.m. Get to the park when it opens at 9 (or at Extra Magic Hours opening, if applicable). Check out the butterfly house and Future World gardens and topiaries, then enjoy the Festival Center displays and browse among the souvenirs until it’s time to head out around the World.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Downtown Disney and Raglan Road are St. Patrick’s Day hot spots

bg4If you’re from Orlando, you probably already know that it’s St. Patrick’s Day all year ’round at Raglan Road, the Irish pub and restaurant at Downtown Disney. Still, as March 17 approaches, the festivities reach a fever pitch with the Mighty Irish Festival. The party’s so big that it spills out of the restaurant and throughout the entire Downtown Disney area.

The fun is already in high gear, and it has been since March 7. This weekend, it starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 14, and the kick-off moves up to noon on the 15th, 16th, and 17th. I recommend arriving early because all the construction at Downtown Disney makes the parking situation just a bit hairy.

It’s something you really have to experience, but the video below will give you a small sampling of what’s in store for those who head out to the Mighty Irish Festival between now at St. Patrick’s Day:

bg3It might sound like an adult event, and it’s certainly true that there’s lots of appeal for those of legal drinking age. If you’re in that category, I highly recommend trying out the Exploding Shamrock at Raglan Road (the secret ingredient is Pop Rocks). But if you have wee ones, feel free to bring them along. As you can see in the video, there’s plenty to keep them busy, like games, stilt walkers, dancing, and coloring activities themed to the “Muppets Most Wanted” movie.

There’s just one tidbit to keep in mind. Raglan Road usually accepts reservations, but you’re on your own for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s first come, first served on March 17, and be prepared to pony up a $10 cover charge. The entertainment is well worth the charge, with bands both inside and out, Irish dancers, and of course plenty of Guinness on tap to lubricate the celebration.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Festival of Fantasy creators share their thoughts on new Magic Kingdom parade

bg3I had a chance to attend a media viewing of the new Festival of Fantasy Parade at the Magic Kingdom. Wow! As I shared in one of my previous In the Shadow of the Mouse posts, I was blown away by this fine example of Disney showmanship. I have a full video of the parade in that post, but view that only as a small sample of what awaits you if you see it in person. There’s no way a computer screen can even begin to compare.

I also had an opportunity to talk to some of the parade’s creators. I think you’ll enjoy hearing their thoughts now that something they’re be working on for the past two years has finally come to fruition. You’ll learn what it’s like for those creators to watch guests witnessing the parade for the first time and sharing in their excitement.

First, here’s Kris Bunnell, Producer, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment. I previously talked to Kris at a media fashion show that showcased some of the costumes and floats before the parade’s debut. It was great fun to hear her thoughts now that the whole parade has been officially unveiled:

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Next is Creative Director Steve Davidson, who talks about what it’s like to nurture a project for two years and see it finally make its debut in front of an appreciative crowd:

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Last is Sayre Wiseman, Show Productions Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, who talks about all the little details that make this parade such a stunner:

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It’s always a pleasure to talk to the creative minds at Disney who bring shows, parades, and attractions to life. Hopefully you’ll enjoy watching the interviews as much as I did when I filmed them.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Old-school Disney showmanship: Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom

When Walt Disney World first announced the Festival of Fantasy Parade, I felt a mixture of hope and excitement, tempered by a bit of cynicism. After all, it’s just a parade. What can they really do with that? Disney parades are fun, but as a local I typically see them once, then hit the Magic Kingdom at parade time so I can do my favorite rides with shorter lines while the tourists are busy fighting over prime viewing spots.

blog1Still, my appetite was whetted when I got a chance to preview some of the costumes and floats. From the dark and dangerous ravens and thorn bushes to accompany the steampunk Maleficent dragon to the twirling stained glass-style sea horses for the Little Mermaid float, I’ll admit that I was intrigued. The parade made its debut on March 9, and I saw it the very next day. As someone who can be quite cynical when Disney makes a misfire (cough cough…Journey into Imagination reboot…cough), I can wholeheartedly say that Festival of Fantasy is full of old-school Disney showmanship that rises to the next level and beyond.

Yes, the star of the parade is Maleficent, especially if you’re in one of the spots where she breathes real fire as she battles Prince Phillip (hint: castle hub near the Fastpass+ viewing). I was just as awed by that float as I expected to be, but I also loved the hard-core action and creative touches on the other floats and the high energy of the accompanying performers.

blog2For example, you have to see the Rapunzel float, with Flynn and the thugs literally swinging out over the sides. The Peter Pan float is preceded by a contingent of Lost Boys who perform Newsies-inspired dance moves. The ravens and thorns with Maleficent are properly menacing, and the colorful costumes of the Little Mermaid contingent are a true ocular delight.

As a local, I’m lucky enough to be able to see the parade as much as I wish, limited only my patience for staking out a spot (see my tip at the end of this article to ease that process). If you don’t have that luxury and you won’t be down to Orlando for a while, enjoy the full video of the parade below. Yes, I did manage to capture the fire!

 

Full 20-Minute Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom – use this link if video doesn’t appear below: http://youtu.be/wL7VKMYn9c8

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Locals’ Secret

blog3Everyone wants to see the parade in the castle hub or along Main Street. Yes, that’s the traditional spot, but if you head over to Frontierland, you’ll often be able to get a great viewing spot even close to kick-off time. That depends on the overall crowd, of course, but it’s never as crazy as Main Street.

As a bonus, the parade route starts at the far end of Frontierland, so the 3 o’clock parade really will start at 3 o’clock, vs. the 15 or 20 additional minutes it takes to reach the end of the line.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

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Enjoy a little Epcot without paying an admission charge

As I mentioned in a previous article, Epcot is my favorite of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. Right now is an especially great time to visit, since the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing. It’s a panorama of creative topiaries, colorful gardens, informative presentations, fun playgrounds, and delicious food and drink.

But what if you want a little taste of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival without paying for a day’s admission? Maybe you’re a tourist with limited days on your ticket or a local without an annual pass who doesn’t want to put out the money. Fear not, for I will share the secret of experiencing a wee bit of Epcot with no theme park ticket, or even parking fee, required.

What’s the secret? Go to Downtown Disney!

Yes, you read that right. Go to Downtown Disney! It’s the shopping and entertainment complex near Typhoon Lagoon that’s currently undergoing a massive renovation to transform it into Disney Springs. It’s still open in the meantime, and parking is free, although sometimes challenging to find because of the construction. Still, here are three ways that it gives you an Epcot experience with no ticket required:

b221) Topiaries

Epcot boasts some amazing topiaries this year, including the eerily lifelike renditions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. If you want to see just how detailed the topiaries can be, head over to the Downtown Disney West Side. There, you’ll find this Mickey and Minnie topiary, which offers a good demonstration of the facial detail. Sure, it’s just one display vs. the 99 topiaries that grace Epcot, but it’s still a great photo spot and reminder that spring is on the way, even if you live in one of the parts of the country where winter just doesn’t want to quit this year.

b212) Food

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival can rightfully be called the Food and Garden Festival, since food kiosks with special items are back for a second year. Wish you could find out firsthand what a Piggylicious cupcake tastes like? (Hint: it’s very smokey, but in a good way.) Want to sample some of the other special festival items available around World Showcase? All you need to do is look for the World Showcase of Flavors food truck near House of Blues in Downtown Disney. Its rotating menu includes special items from Disney festivals, and right now there are plenty of Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival taste treats available.

b233) Foreign Pavilions

One of the best things about World Showcase at Epcot is that you can take a trip around the world all in one day, with no long plane ride required. Hit places like Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Norway, China, Japan, and even Morocco. Meet natives of those countries, watch live performances of things like music or acrobatics, learn a little something about them, buy authentic souvenirs, and even sample the local cuisine. It’s a cultural cornucopia right in Central Florida.

No, Downtown Disney doesn’t have foreign pavilions, but it does have Raglan Road. This Irish pub and restaurant is literally an Irish pub, since the bar was shipped to Walt Disney World from the Emerald Isle. It serves delicious Irish cuisine like fish & chips and shepherd’s pie, albeit with some interesting twists, and of course there are plenty of good Irish drinks like Guinness and whiskey. The attached souvenir shop is packed with Irish merchandise on a par with the Epcot pavilion shops. You can even immerse yourself in authentic entertainment from house bands like Creel and the Raglan Rebels and Irish dancers with flying feet guaranteed to dazzle you.

You might not find anything like Soarin’ or Spaceship Earth at Downtown Disney, but I think the three options I’ve listed here make it a very worthwhile experience. After all, you also have stores like World of Disney to peruse and places like the AMC movie theater or the bowling alleys at Splitsville to round out your entertainment options. Save an extra day on your ticket while still indulging in some great Epcot-style entertainment.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Top five things to do at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

I have a confession to make. I know that most Disney fanatics dearly love the Magic Kingdom and rank it as their favorite of the four Walt Disney World parks. Yes, I love it, too, but I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Epcot that makes it my number one. From the fountain that performs four times an hour to various musical pieces (Yanni’s “Standing in Motion” is the best) to the stunning scenery and powerful soundtrack of Soarin’ to the ease with which you can take a trip around the world to the delight of seeing someone try Beverly in Club Cool for the first time, it’s such a great park.

gof2The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival in the spring and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in the fall are the cream filling and icing on top of the tasty Disney cupcake. Flower and Garden just kicked off on March 5, and it runs until May 18, so you’ve got plenty of time to indulge in the cornucopia of experiences that is has to offer. Flower and topiaries are only the start.

Here are my top five favorite things to do at the festival. Your mileage may vary, but this is how a local like me likes to spend her time:

1) Visit the butterfly house. I always recommend this, but there’s a special incentive this year. Not only do you see a variety of butterflies, lots of lovely flowers, and fairy houses from the world of Tinkerbell, but you’ll also admire glass butterflies and flowers. They’re new for 2014, and I recommend seeing them early, as the butterfly house gets very, very crowded as the day wears on.

gof12) Take a photo with Soccer Goofy. This year, there’s a new photo op. You can actually step into a topiary scene with Goofy and try to block him from making a goal. Look for the scene near the main Agent P recruiting booth in Future World on the path to World Showcase.

3) Visit the Festival Center. Remember the old Wonders of Life pavilion with the exercise bikes with little TV screens and the weird hot/cold coils? It’s now a hub of activity during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. You can talk to a master gardener, watch a live presentation, see bonsai trees, buy souvenirs, catch a movie about the making of the festival, and even meet HGTV celebrities on the weekends. You can also accomplish my fourth recommended activity there…

4) Pick up a free passport. You can get a Garden Passport in the Festival Center or at various locations. This is especially fun if you have kids, but adults enjoy it, too. The passports have a topiary checklist, food pages, and spots to get special stamps in many of the gardens. I love to make it my mission to see how much of my passport I can fill up in one day.

gof35) Eat a Piggylicious Cupcake. You’ll find this unusual taste treat at the Smokehouse BBQ food stand by the American pavilion. It’s made with bacon and has a very pleasing smokey flavor. Of course, I’m a cupcake fanatic with adventurous culinary tastes, but I recommend trying it even if you’re a bit on the conservative side.

There’s plenty of other great food, too. Obviously, it’s not on the scale of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, but the culinary and beverage offerings are a great addition to the event.

If you’d like to see what the festival looked like when it was under construction, you can join me on a behind the scenes tour in this post.

Locals’ Secret

In the meantime, here’s my tip from a local for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival: get there early. Yes, that sounds simple, but it’s literally the best tip I can give you. I repeat, get there early. Arrive when the park opens and go to the butterfly garden early, since it’s one of those limited capacity things that attracts huge crowds later in the day. Enjoy the topiaries and gardens, get your picture with Soccer Goofy, and hightail it to World Showcase as soon as it opens at 11:00 a.m. Plan on an early lunch to avoid lines at the food kiosks. If you don’t believe this is good advice, I’ll leave you with one closing photo. If you don’t get there early, don’t say I didn’t warn you when you encounter this:

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Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.

Have fun, score lots of beads at Universal Studios Mardi Gras on Saturday

mardi2Mardi Gras is running on select weekend nights through May 31 at Universal Studios Florida. That means you can get the full Mardi Gras experience (well, okay, minus the flashing), including Cajun food, street performers, bands, parade floats, and lots of beads. Prince Royce taks the main stage on Saturday, and genuine New Orleans bands will be playing in the Bourbon Street area. The headline concerts are nice (and they’re included with your park admission), but as a local, I enjoy going to the park on Mardi Gras nights just to soak up the ambiance. It’s nice to enjoy some gumbo, top it off with a colorful slice of king cake, and enjoy the antics of the street performers, set to a soundtrack of live jazz. mardi1I also love watching the parade, with authentic floats built by Kern, just like the ones you see in the Big Easy. There’s a rain of colorful beads from each float, and you can end up with quite a haul by the end. See all those beads I’m wearing in the photo? I wasn’t even trying to catch any. I was busily taking photos, but I was still pelted with enough plastic prizes to make Cleopatra jealous. If you’d like to get your own haul, here are some tips from your friendly local on how to accomplish it: 1) Take advantage of special viewing areas. If you’re an annual pass holder, their are special spots set aside just for you. If not, do you have young kids in your party? They can hang out in the Little Jesters area, a prime spot near the beginning of the parade. And that brings me to the next tip… 2) Stake out a spot near the parade’s start. It kicks off across from Mel’s Diner, and the people throwing the beads are chock full of energy right at the start. That means they throw early and often, to the point where beads will boink you in the head even if you’re not trying to catch them. The tossers are annual pass holders who volunteer for a spot on the floats. By the time they get to the end, their arms are tired and the rain of beads tends to lessen. Still, being at the end of the route isn’t always a bad thing… mardi33) Look for spots with less competition. Depending on the crowd density in the park, you might be able to find a spot toward the end of the parade route with very few people around. The people riding the floats might not toss as many beads, but you’ll still rack up a huge stash if you’re not fighting a crowd to get them. Those are my three tips, and the big batches of beads I’ve earned each year are proof that they work. The parade is great fun, even if you’re not in it for the baubles. You can see it in the video below:

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Please use this link if the video doesn’t show up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEZWqjtD2is

The next video gives you some insider insights into this year’s float and theme:

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Please use this link if the video doesn’t show up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HXP6uCtrp8

The real Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana may be over, but you’ve still got plenty of time to enjoy the Universal Studios Florida version. Head out on one of the weekend event days by May 31 and enjoy a little bit of New Orleans in Orlando.

Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog  In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to hypeorlandoblogger@gmail.com.