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

A whirlwind Orlando Christmas, and it’s not over yet: Where to extend your holiday

Christmas is a whirlwind time in the Orlando area because there’s so much to do in and around the theme parks. I’ve had some amazing opportunities throughout the season, and I’d like to share them in this recap. If they whet your appetite to extend your own Christmas season a little, never fear. Most of them are running through the end of the year or even a little beyond.

One of the highlights of every year is my annual visit with the Grinch. Just as little kids look forward to telling Santa Claus what they want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning, I love to chat with the Mean Green One on his version of Christmas cheer. You know that you leave out milk and cookies for Santa, but what does the Grinch prefer? Trash, of course, but no kitty litter please!

He’s always such a hoot:

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You can still meet the Grinch yourself this year up until January 3 and see the adorable “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” live stage show at Islands of Adventure. The show is scored by Mannheim Steamroller, and they do live concerts next door at Universal Studios Florida each year. Unfortunately, those are over, but here’s a fun little tidbit from one of this year’s shows: the Grinch cast performing an abbreviated reading live with the band:

Mannheim Steamroller may be gone, but the Macy’s Parade remains at Universal Studios Florida til January 3, too. The parade is always great fun, and this year there’s a new wiggle worm balloon, along with the Chloe the Clown balloonicle. What the heck is that? Find out from John Piper himself, direct from the Macy’s studio. First, here’s what the inside looks like:

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And now, here’s more on the balloons and the parade from John himself (don’t you love his entrance?):

And here’s the parade itself:

It’s well worth extending your Christmas season to run over to Universal Orlando Resort. While you’re there, I highly recommend trying the new Cowfish restaurant on CityWalk. It’s burger/sushi fusion…seriously…and it is soooo good. How did that concept ever see the light of day? Let the founders themselves tell you:

I don’t have much space for food porn in this article, so I’ll be doing a separate one, soon. Meanwhile, here’s some fresh, delicious sushi to tempt you:

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The desserts are insane, too (one involves Nutella…need I say more?).

Meanwhile, Christmas continues over at Walt Disney World. Sadly, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is over for the year, but it was as much fun as always. Here’s a highlight reel from this year’s party to whet your appetite for 2015. “But it’s much too early,” you might say. It’s never too early, especially since tickets go on sale well in advance of the party and sell out quickly. I recommend planning now and buying tickets for your preferred date as soon as they go on sale:

Christmas at Epcot continues with the Candlelight Processional running through December 30. Steven Curtis Chapman is the closing narrator; I love both him and his music, but I have to admit that the narrator I was most excited about this year was Neil Patrick Harris, I know he’s appeared many times before, but somehow the planets had always aligned in a hostile manner that kept me from seeing the show. Finally, this year I saw him:

I’m sad that the Candlelight Processional is over soon. I love the live music and the stirring story of the nativity, but I know that technically Christmas is over. Still, things actually run all the way until January 4 over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That’s where the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights carries on Jennings Osborne’s tradition of amazingly excessive decor. There’s something magical about standing in the middle of all those lights and letting their rhythm and the sound of the music envelop you. Here’s one song to give you a sampling:

January 4 is also the last day for Christmas at the Gaylord Palms Resort, featuring the annual Ice! display. This year, Ice! is themed to the Nutcracker and, better yet for the big kids, it features an ice bar right in the middle of the display. There’s nothing like a literally ice-cold sampling of Johnny Appleseed to warm you up inside:

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Here’s a video of the entire display, including the lovely nativity that ends up every year’s display:

Ice! is just one small part of Christmas the the Gaylord Palms. Stick around for the Luminescence show, browse the beautiful decorations, catch a bargain in the Christmas store, and, best of all, take a spin on the alpine tube slides. Ice! is 9 degrees inside, but the alpine slopes are surprisingly warm, even though you’re sledding on real snow:

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SeaWorld Orlando continues its Christmas celebration all the way through New Year’s Eve. It’s the perfect season extending option for animal lovers. I’m a huge fan of the “O Wondrous Night” show, which tells the nativity from the animals’ point of view. They’re puppets to start out with, but their real life counterparts take the stage for the big finale. What’s it like working with four-legged, furry and feathered stars? Hear from their trainer, Joel Slaven:

I loved meeting some of the animals up close:

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Of course, I also enjoy the Shamu Christmas Miracles show because I love seeing Katina, Makaio, and the rest of the orca pod show their awesome power and intelligence. The talented skaters in Winter Wonderland on Ice wow me, too, but this year, I must admit that the thing that stood out most for me was the living angel statue. She was hilarious (and a bit devious, as you can see from the photo):

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Here are some highlights of the SeaWorld Christmas Celebration. You can still enjoy it up through January 31.

I love living in Orlando, even in the heat of the summer when the temperature flirts with triple digits, but I must admit that, next to the Halloween haunt season, Christmas is truly the best time to live in the thick of the theme parks. It’s hard to believe that the special events are almost over already, but never fear…like Frosty the Snowman, they’ll be back again before you know it.

Lose the tube? Scott did, and I’m surprised no one thought of it before

I’ve got lots of good stuff coming up about Christmas at the theme parks, but I’m shifting gears with this post as I’m also an avid product sampler. I belong to sites like Crowdtap, which gives me the opportunity to sample and review products. The latest was one of those simple ideas that makes you scratch your head and say, “Why didn’t someone thing of that before?” I became part of the Simply Scott Squad and tried a four-pack of Simply Scott toilet paper.

I’m obviously quite familiar with Scott toilet tissue, but I had no idea that they have a version that has no cardboard tube in the middle called Scott Naturals. If you really think about it, the tube doesn’t add much to the equation. It’s that annoying little thing that you have to remove and toss before you can replenish the supply. Interestingly enough, Scott says that enough toilet paper tubes are discarded each year to fill the Empire State building twice (the video has a link for a coupon):

By eliminating the tube, you don’t lose anything in terms of functionality, and you actually do a painless bit to save the planet.I tried the product, and literally I found no difference in having or not having a tube. Well, okay, there was one difference. It eliminated the accusations within the household of “Why did you leave an empty tube? Just throw the darned thing away!” The toilet paper itself is the same old soft Scott that you know and love.

Alas, even though it can’t magically cause a new roll to appear in place, the Scott Naturals toilet paper did add another small green dimension to the household. I try to do small things, like using environmentally friendly cleaning products and reusing water bottles, and this is another of those easy everyday steps. You’ll never miss that cardboard tube, but imagine if everyone went the tube-free route. That’s a heck of a lot landfill space that wouldn’t be needed. I wonder how long it will take the other brands to catch up? Kudos to Scott for being a leader.