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

Universal Orlando honors Harry Potter at 4th annual event

wandThis past weekend, Universal Orlando Resort once again honored the Boy Who Lived and the entire Wizarding World with its fourth annual “A Celebration of Harry Potter.” This event, which debuted in 2014, has grown bigger and better every year. Not only does it bring an exciting line-up of movie celebrities to the Universal parks, but it also covers everything from the London studio tour to the graphic designs from MinaLima to books from Scholastic and more. As you can see by all the fans in the photo, wearing their wizard robes with wands held aloft, Harry’s popularity is as strong as ever.

Overview of the event

If you didn’t get to this year’s “A Celebration of Harry Potter,” the video below will show you some of what you missed. The opening festivities give an overview and set up a sense of excitement for the whirlwind weekend:

Meet the celebrities

It’s nearly impossible to see and do everything over the course of the event, which runs from Friday to Sunday. The Expo itself can take several hours of browsing time, and with all the panels and demonstrations, the time flies by every year. One of the most popular draws at “A Celebration of Harry Potter” is the celebrity appearances. In the video below, you’ll see Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick and Griphook) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), all of whom were on hand this year to chat about their experiences in the franchise films:

The festivities are over for another year, but you can still get your dose of Harry Potter any time at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. The two parks feature Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, connected by the Hogwarts Express, to provide any-time immersion in the Wizarding World. Be sure to try the frozen butterbeer!

Top 5 first-day activities at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts

The rain couldn’t dampen the first day of the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, the brand-new event at Walt Disney World. The festival runs Friday through Monday from now until February 20. I was there bright and early in the morning and had a blast until the rain finally drove me away. I still have a lot more to experience, but here’s my early report with the top five activities I experienced on day one, in no particular order.

Top 5 of Epcot festival fun

temp77The Living Statues. I love the Living Statues over at Disney Springs, and they’re now at Epcot for the duration of the festival, saluting the spirit of Future World. While I enjoyed all three and laughed out loud at their antics with guests, I loved the middle one most because he was drawing a picture of my favorite purple dragon. That’s a nice lead-in to my second list item…

The special merchandise. It’s very heavy on Figment, which is fine with me. I already have Figment all over my house, and by the time the event is over, his presence will increase quite a bit. There are t-shirts, toys, tumblers, and even a Figment scavenger hunt. He’s definitely getting some love at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts.

The seminars. I attended my first one today, and there are so many others going on throughout the festival that I plan to hit many more. I learned all about animation cells, both as part of productions and as collectibles, today. The seminar schedule is on the Walt Disney World website, and they’re held Odyssey, at the crossroads of Future World and World Showcase on the Mexico side.

temp4The Broadway music. I always enjoy the concerts at the various events that run at Epcot throughout the year, but the Epcot International Festival of the Arts has one of the best-ever offerings. They’re bringing Broadway stars to perform on the America Gardens stage, with three shows per night every Friday through Monday until February 20. The music, sung with a live band accompaniment, is guaranteed to give you chills. Josh Strickland and Ashley Brown kicked things off for the first night, with many more great performances to come.

temp78The grazing. Culinary art is among the art forms that gets a salute at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. Bring your appetite and graze among the kiosks as you enjoy the visual and performing arts lurking around every corner. The food itself is artwork. The plating is so pretty and precise that you’ll feel bad ruining it…but your taste buds will demand that you do so.

Enjoy the Epcot International Festival of the Arts now through February 20. It runs from Friday through Monday, and most of the fun is included with your ticket, although you’ll want to check out the extra-cost offerings as a little treat.

Disney chefs show their artistry at Epcot International Festival of the Arts

pw2You’d expect the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, the newest event at Walt Disney World, to be all about the visual arts, like drawing and painting. You’d be correct in your assumption, but you’d also be pinpointing just one part of a major festival that encompasses a much wider range. For example, in addition to art exhibitions, demonstrations, and seminars, you’ll find a salute to the performing arts in the form of concerts by Disney Broadway stars.

As if all that isn’t enough, look for the Walt Disney World chefs to showcase their own artistry, working in the medium of food. Epcot is well known for its International Food and Wine Festival, and the Flower and Garden Festival added special culinary offerings in recent years, too. Now you don’t have to wait until spring to indulge in new eats. The art festival will have eight “kitchens” serving up artistically-inspired dishes. I had a change to taste several of them, so I can attest that you won’t be disappointed.

Learn more about the special eats at Epcot

Chef Gregg Hannon shared the scoop on the Epcot International Festival of the Arts food offerings to help you prepare your taste buds for the January 13 debut:

Best dishes at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts

art2Out of all the dishes that I previewed, there really wasn’t anything bad, but if I had to choose just one dish, it would be the mushroom and truffle risotto. I mean, come on, mushrooms? Truffle? Parmesan cheese? What more can I say? I do have to admit that the trio of croissant donuts were a big winner, too, especially the cheese and tuna varieties. The shrimp ceviche was light and refreshing, and the scallops were a real winner for seafood lovers. I loved how the food had ties to the artwork, and some items were works of art themselves, like the colorful sugar cookies with hazelnut filling (think a Pop-Tart packed with Nutella…heavenly!)

You can see many of the food choices in the photo at the top of this article, and you’ll get to try them for yourself at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, starting on the 13th and running Friday through Monday up until February 20. Stay tuned for more insider information to get you excited about the event.

Get ready for A Celebration of Harry Potter, coming to Universal on January 27

art6A Celebration of Harry Potter returns to Universal Orlando Resort on January 27, bringing a full weekend of Wizarding events to the two Universal theme parks. Get ready for celebrity Q & A panels, film props, wand dueling demonstrations, and much more. The best thing about the celebration is that virtually everything is included with your theme park admission. Get a two park ticket that lets you into Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure and you’re limited only by how much you can pack into your day.

As a local, I’m fortunate enough to be able to visit Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley any time I wish, if only to quaff a quick, refreshing Butterbeer after a spin on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Even with the Wizarding World at my fingertips, I can’t help but get excited about this annual event where Harry Potter mania goes into full gear.

Highlights of this popular Harry Potter event

What exactly can you see and do at A Celebration of Harry Potter? The videos below, shot in past years, sum things up quite nicely.

See a wand being created:

Hear from Harry Potter film celebrities:

Watch live wand dueling:

Witness a movie make-up demonstration:

If this sampler has you wanting more, block out your calendar for the weekend of January 27 and head out to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure to immerse yourself live in the Wizarding World. This event draws big crowds every year, so come early and plan to spend the day from opening until closing time to take in as much as you possibly can. Check the event schedule and plan out your day so you don’t miss any of the must-do panels and demonstrations. Leave plenty of time for the expo, too, as it will be hard to tear yourself away from the treasure trove of Harry Potter-related booths and activities.

Brand-new Epcot International Festival of the Arts debuts January 13

One of the best things about living near Walt Disney World and having an annual pass is being able to take advantage of the special events like the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Those are always two of the biggest highlights of every Disney fan’s year.

With two festivals that cover the spring and fall, and a holiday celebration in between, there’s not much more that could happen at Epcot, right? Wrong!

Brand New Festival Coming to Walt Disney World

art5Make room for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. This new event starts on January 13 and runs every Friday through Monday until February 20. The festival is an eclectic melding of just about every art form you can think of, from painting to chalk drawings to crafts to photography to Broadway music to other performance arts and the art of creating fine cuisine.

The video below contains an overview of the festival:

Like Epcot’s other events, it’s included with your admission ticket, but you’ll want to budget some funds to try out some of the extra cost activities and to try food from the eight different “kitchens.” For Figment fans, be sure to buy the Figment scavenger hunt kit so you can track down your favorite purple dragon in famous works of art around the world. It’s for kids, but you can bet that adult Figment fans (I’m raising my hand here) will love it, too.

Plan a Full Day at Epcot

art4There will be so much going on at the festival that you’ll need to spend a full day at the park, or better yet, make multiple visits if possible. You’ll want to stroll around viewing the artwork and catch the special entertainment on the Fountain Stage and the Broadway singers at America Gardens. You can easily graze on the special food offerings while you do that, since they’re in tapas style portions. The platings are a work of art, too, so you might feel a little bit guilty eating them.

Want to learn more about Walt Disney World’s newest way to draw visitors after the holiday madness and before the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival draws in the spring crowd? Stay tuned to this blog for articles focusing on each unique aspect, like food, live Disney artists, Disney on Broadway stars, and more.