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

Elsa’s doing magic at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom til January 12th

Elsa’s been lighting up Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom every night since Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party started in November, and she’s not done yet. The other Disney holiday activities have been put to bed for another year, but Elsa, along with Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf, is still on vacation in Florida and she’s not going to stop her work until January 12th.

You can see everyone’s favorite ice princess use her powers to ice the castle through this coming Monday. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the show (I particularly like it because it has a walking, talking Olaf):

Even if you miss her performance, she and Elsa will still be on hand to greet guests at Princess Fairytale Hall (whatever you do, get a FastPass+ to avoid the long waits). They’re a lot of fun to meet, as I discovered earlier in 2014:

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Given all their Frozen fame, the sisters have had a busy year at Walt Disney World. They also brought a chill to the summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a parade, the Frozen sing-along show, a local branch of Oaken’s Trading Post, and even ice skating and a snowy play area. Here’s their special welcome parade that ran each day:

This overview of the whole event features scenes from the show (yes, I know you’re probably tired of hearing “Let It Go,” but I promise that it’s actually a lot of fun, and not just for the kids…there are plenty of laughs interspersed with the songs):

You can still catch the show, but Elsa and Anna’s horse-drawn carriage and float moved over to the Magic Kingdom just in time for the Christmas festivities. See them in the Christmas parade here:

And if that’s not enough Frozen fun for you, remember that the ride in Norway is currently under refurbishment and will eventually debut with a new Frozen overlay, Hopefully that means the trolls will still be around.

Yes, I know that’s a lot of Frozen, but you have to admit that it’s still wildly popular. Eventually their fame flame will burn out…or would that be melt down? Either way, soon enough a new Disney hit will take its place, but Elsa and Anna fans are getting lots of changes to meet their heroines in the meantime.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone, it’s the slow season at the theme parks

As a local, I’ll admit that I’m spoiled. I don’t wait in long lines for theme park attractions. At Disney World, I grab a FastPass+ for a couple of my favorite attractions during the busy season, visit my park of choice for a couple of hours, then hightail it home when my crowd tolerance reaches its limit. At Universal, I go late in the day, since my Premier annual pass gives me Express access after 4 p.m. At SeaWorld, I arrive at opening time and head to the farther-back attractions while the arriving hoards are dazzled by the likes of Manta and do things closer to the front gate.

But every few months I get a real treat: a tiny bit of off-season time. The most notable periods are those right before Memorial Day and Labor Day, but there’s also a nice chunk of slow time right after the mad holiday rush. The crowds head home, their credit cards and energy levels depleted, and don’t think about another vacation for at least a few weeks. Meanwhile, I can enjoy Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando at a more leisurely and spontaneous pace than I’m normally able to do.

What are my top three favorite parks to visit during this rare period of quiet time? Here they are in no particular order:

Epcot

2You have to be careful at Disney, since marathon weekend falls in this period, but otherwise Epcot tends to be quiet until the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival starts in early March. The lines can be a little long in Future World right around opening time, since World Showcase doesn’t open until 11 a.m. I like to come a little later, take a leisurely global tour in World Showcase, then head back to Future World where the lines have typically died down to enjoy Soarin’ and Test Track a few times, then hit Nemo and Spacehip Earth on my way out.

If you’re a Flower and Garden fan, I advise coming out early in the festival. The crowds pick up throughout its run, although it’s fun to visit at both the beginning and the end so you can see how the displays change over time as the season gets warmer.

SeaWorld Orlando

1There’s so much to do outside at SeaWorld, and January weather is usually perfect to do it. The chance of rain is rare compared to the summer, and it’s generally cooler and much less humid. Normally a day at SeaWorld means working around the show schedule to make sure you get to each arena with plenty of time to get a good seat.

Lower off-season crowds means you don’t have to get to Shamu Stadium 45 minutes early or to rush to Blue Horizons long before showtime. That means more time to enjoy underwater viewing and the rides and exhibits like Turtle Trek, the sharks, and Wild Arctic. It also means shorter lines at Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, where you must do the ride to get to the amazing open-air penguin habitat.

Universal Studios Florida

3Actually, while I love all of Universal, my big recommendation for the off season is Diagon Alley. It’s still the new kid on the block, and as such, it’s wildly crowded at busy times of year. You can’t fully appreciate all the detail in this area when you’re too busy trying not to get run over by a stroller or otherwise trampled in the crowd.

Thankfully, the off-season lull gives Harry Potter fans a chance to take it easy and really explore all the shops, noting the fun details of the displays and the amazing architecture of the buildings outside. It’s also fun to buy an interactive wand and take some time to cast spells. There’s a line to do so during the busy season, but you won’t have to wait for other wizards to practice ahead of you when you visit in the rare lull.

There is a time when Harry fans will find themselves in the midst of a crowd. A Celebration of Harry Potter runs for three days, starting January 30, but it’s worth braving the mob to see exhibitors like Pottermore and Scholastic and attend panel discussions with some of the movies’ stars.

These are my own personal choices, but this is a great time to visit any of the theme parks. Just beware of the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, as students generally have a long weekend, which means a reprise of the crowds.

What’s next at the parks? Harry Potter at Universal and nice food and garden mix at Epcot

Now that the holidays are over and the theme park Christmas events are winding down, what’s next for Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort? Things never stay quiet for long at the major central Florida parks, and both Disney and Universal have some big guns set to blaze in the early months of 2015.

A Celebration of Harry Potter

Universal already has Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley all year long, but they step up the Harry Potter theme January 30 to February 1 with the return of their popular A Celebration of Harry Potter event. It’s an exhibition for Muggles who can’t get enough of the boy wizard and his world. As you might expect, you get to see celebrities from the movies. Here’s a panel discussion from last year with Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), Oliver Phelps (George Weasley), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), and Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan).

The cast was also on hand for the event kick-off, as seen in the video below:

It was a very chilly night, but that didn’t deter the massive crowd who came to the parks to kick things off.

In the exhibit area, you’ll see companies closely associated with the Harry Potter brand, like Pottermore…

MinaLima (graphics for the films)…

And Warner Brothers Studios…

One of my favorite parts was hearing Kazu Kibuishi talk about what it was like to work with Scholastic and reimagine the Harry Potter covers:

I also had the opportunity to attend a media Q & A with the cast:

There was even a dueling demonstration:

As you can see by the videos, it’s a total geek-out for Harry Potter fans. The exhibition is included with your park ticket, and I highly recommend coming early and making a day of it so you can be sure to see everything. It gets quite crowded, so you’ll need as much time as possible to catch the cast talks and see all the exhibitors.

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Meanwhile, over at Walt Disney World, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival kicks off on March 5. I always view the festival opening as my unofficial early Florida spring kick-off. I’m an avid gardener myself, so I love being surrounded by the colorful blooms around the park and marveling at the clever, colorful topiaries.

Last year, I got to go behind the scenes to see some of the preparations for the festival. Check out the tour and it will help you imagine what’s going on already as we move full speed toward this year’s opening in just two months:

The Festival Horticultural Manager, Eric Darden, takes great pride in his work, as you can see from this 2014 interview:

Of course, in recent years the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival has gotten even better with the addition of food…yum! Chef Jens and his crew make sure that the Outdoor Kitchen kiosks rival those you’ll find at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival later in the year. Here’s what he had to say last year:

I’m a big fan of the talks, demonstrations, and workshops in the Festival Center too (that’s the Wonders of Life Pavilion for all you old-timers). With HGTV as sponsor, the festival always features some familiar celebrity speakers. I had the pleasure of seeing Vern Yip last year:

There are local gardening experts, too, like the always amusing Robert Bowden of Leu Gardens. His talk is hands-on, and I still have the plant I potted at last year’s presentation:

There are Flower Power concerts, too, so plan to stick around and catch one if you’re an oldies fan. The concerts, talks, and workshops are all included with your Epcot admission, and you can buy a handy wrist gift card to make your dining more convenient.

As you can see, the first quarter of 2015 will be anything but boring at the Orlando theme parks. That’s one of the things I love most about living in the shadow of the mouse. I never have a chance to suffer from post-holiday depression because as soon as the New Year passes, I’m already anticipating the next exciting events.

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.

Destination D Attraction Rewind shows why it pays to be a D23 member

You may have heard about D23, the official Disney fan club, but perhaps you’ve never bothered to join. After all, if you’re already a Disney fanatic, what can it possibly have to offer?

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Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar.

One of the biggest perks of being in D23 is being able to go to the events. There’s a huge annual expo, but that’s not the only event. For example, D23 came to Walt Disney World on November 22 and 23 for Destination D Attraction Rewind. You may think you know everything about Disney, but have you heard it live and direct from the mouths of Disney legends? If not, you can have that incomparable experience at events like this.

I had the great pleasure of covering D23 Attraction Rewind and heard about what it was like to work on World’s Fair Attractions from the people who actually did it. I spoke to Jack Gladish, the Imagineer who brought Mr. Lincoln to life in groundbreaking Audioanamatronic form, and chatting with the likes of Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, Jack Gladish, and Bill Sullivan.You can see all the panel interview participants in the photos on this page.

Walt Disney died when I was only two years old, but it was truly a geek moment to talk to men who had worked hand-in-hand with him at Disneyland and Disney World and on the World’s Fair project.

Bill Sullivan, Bill Cotter, and Gary Landrum.

Bill Sullivan, Bill Cotter, and Gary Landrum.

The event also featured memorabilia from the World’s Fair like banners, records, Moldarama figures, and even an irradiated dime. It’s amazing to see those old souvenirs, many of which are very rare because so few were saved over the years. There were also figures from the archives like Figment, Mr. Toad, and a horse and pig from World of Motion.

You can even go shopping for goods straight from Mickey’s of Glendale at the pop-up store. Just be warned of two important things. First, the wait to get in, and then to check out, will be long. Second, if you’re a true Disney fanatic, your credit card will be red hot and smoking by the time you leave.

Photos and video aren’t allowed in the presentations, so the only way to see them is to actually attend the event. You’ll hear personal stories of working with Walt, see rare archive photos and videos, and hear recordings. I especially loved the concept art for what might have been at the Coke pavilion if the soft drink company had taken Disney up on its ideas…which bear a very close resemblance to what became the Enchanted Tiki Room. Speaking of the World’s Fair, did you know that it was due to Joan Crawford’s pressure that Pepsi stuck with sponsoring It’s a Small World?

Jack Gladish and Michael Kelley.

Jack Gladish and Michael Kelley.

You might even see a never-before-released clip of an upcoming movie. In this case, it was a scene from “Tomorrowland,” accompanied by a fascinating talk by art director Ramsey Avery on the intricacies of the film’s set design and the challenges of recreating the 1964/65 World’s Fair. I was shocked that that part was almost filmed in Kissimmee, at the Tupperware World Headquarters! Amazingly, there was little to go on in terms of photos of the fair and even plans for Disney’s own attractions. The movie had to wing it with the boats for It’s a Small World by using information on two later incarnations.

I also heard stories that personalized Walt as a warm human being, not just a larger than life personality. You’ve got to love a man who had a bar stashed away under one of the seats of his private plane!

If the ability to attend events like this sounds enticing, visit the official D23 website for more details on how to join. There’s a free membership if you’d like to dip in your toes, or go for the Gold if you’re ready to plunge right into the pool.

Ramsey Avery.

Ramsey Avery.

D23 press conference videos highlight archives, future of D23

The D23 Destination D Attraction Rewind event kicked into high gear today, but Friday featured two fascinating press conferences for fans of all things Disney.

The first was a chat with Becky Cline, Director Director of the Walt Disney Archives. Several archived items are on display at the event, and she talked about those treasures, as well as some of the other pieces in the collection and what it’s like to have a hand in saving and preserving Disney history. See it for yourself in the video below:

The second was a presentation by Adam Sanderson and Kristin Rodack of D23. They talked about the future of the wildly popular Disney fan club, including some membership changes. While silver memberships are going away, gold members will be able to upgrade to family memberships that give them the freedom to bring more family members to events. The duo also unveiled the 2015 D23 Expo art. You can see it all in the video below:

The event continues throughout Saturday and Sunday at the Contemporary Resort, highlighting the World’s Fair and beloved Disney attractions of the past (and some that have survived through the present, like Carousel of Progress). It’s just one of the D23 events that you can sign up for if you’re a member. There’s even a free membership level; if you’re a consummate Disney fan, check it out on the official website.

D23 Attraction Rewind is here: Yes, I could easily overspend in this store!

The D23 Attraction Rewind is now in town. It gets into full swing tomorrow (November 22), but I got a peek at the pop-up store, Mickey’s of Glendale, today, and let’s just say that I’m lucky I couldn’t buy anything at the sneak peek or my credit card would be smoking right now. Attendees were lined up in quite an impressive queue, and I could easily see why. There was a variety of Imagineering merchandise:

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A great selection of Pleasure Island throwback goodies:

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Artwork:

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Small World goodies:

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And just generally a wonderful selection geared to the Disney enthusiast. One of my personal favorites was the Figment shirt:

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temp1Since there’s a “former attractions” theme, along with a World’s Fair focus, I thought it was especially appropriate to reflect back on my favorite Disney World ride of all time. Yes, I know Figment’s still there, but the original Journey Into Imagination was a work of dark ride perfection that will never be equaled. Yes, that’s my buddy Figment in the photo at right. He’s one of the pieces featured in the archive display that’s also part of the D23 Attraction Rewind event.

The D23 Attraction Rewind continues on Saturday and Sunday at the Contemporary Resort and Convention Center, so I’ll have more reports on the panels and presentations. It’s always such a pleasure to hear from Disney legends and those “in the know” about what’s ahead, as well as memories of what’s been left behind.

If you’re not a D23 member, you can sign up for free for some fun member exclusives. If you’re not lucky enough to live in Florida like I am, or near Disneyland, it’s a great way to stoke your Disney passion all year ’round and maintain that connection, no matter where you live.

Night goes fast at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: Videos of entertainment show why

When I attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party earlier this week (it runs on select nights at the Magic Kingdom through December 19), I couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew by. It starts at 7 p.m. and ends at midnight, and it’s the fastest five hours I’ve ever experienced.

Actually, I’m not all that surprised, since the same thing happened to me not so long ago at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (was Halloween really less than a month away?). Disney hard-ticket events are always chock full of special fun and entertainment, so it takes a bit of planning and juggling to fit in everything you want to see. I recommend getting there before the party starts (your ticket gets you into the Magic Kingdom as early as 4 p.m.), grabbing a show schedule, and plotting out the night ahead with your must-sees.

If you’re not sure what you want to see, these videos should help you. Hint: if you’ve got little girls, they’re going to clamor to see everything involving Frozen, starting with Queen Elsa transforming Cinderella Castle into a glowing array of ice lights as the culmination of a special show:

Don’t want to watch the full show? (You really show…it’s worth it to see Olaf walk and talk). Here’s the Cliff Notes version, with just the castle lighting:

Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff also feature prominently in the Christmas parade:

There’s plenty of relatively Frozen-free entertainment, too. Yes, there’s a segment in the castle projection show, but it’s just one small piece of a huge mash-up of Disney favorites that has a holiday bit tacked on for good measure during the party:

And of course, it wouldn’t be Walt Disney World without fireworks. Watch them light up the sky in holiday splendor:

There are other shows, too, that aren’t nearly as crowded as the biggies. I always enjoy A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas because it features Santa Stitch:

Celebrate the Season is back on the castle stage, too:

As you can see, there’s a lot to experience, and this doesn’t even include shopping for special holiday merchandise, enjoying free cocoa and cookies (or apples and apple juice), getting photos with characters in their Christmas best, or just walking down Main Street to soak up the Christmas ambiance as you marvel at snow in Florida.

If you’re planning to attend the party this year and don’t have your tickets yet, get them as soon as you can! It’s already been selling out on many dates this year, so you don’t want to be disappointed.

Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic offers amazing cuisine this weekend

tempIf you’re a Disney fan, you’re probably already familiar with the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which continues through November 10 at the theme park. However, you might not realize that this weekend brings the fifth incarnation of another popular Epcot-area food fest. On October 31 and November 1, the Swan and Dolphin resorts host the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic, a two-day celebration of delicious food and drink.

If you’ve never visited the Food and Wine Classic before, check out the video below for highlights from the media preview. I was fortunate enough to attend this tasting of several of the featured items, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything I tried in both the food and beverage categories.

My special favorites were the pork dish, with sauce that made its flavors sing and the shrimp shooter, which makes shrimp cocktail as much fun as it is tasty. I was also hooked on the hot and cold bananas foster panini with vanilla ice cream:

Those items and many more will be available at the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic on October 31 and November 1, with different items on each night just to keep things interesting. You can attend one or both nights and either buy tickets if you plan to eat and drink a limited amount or get an all-you-can-eat-and-drink band. I highly recommend the latter because it keeps you from having to make difficult choices. See two items that both sound good? Flash your band and try them both!

If this sounds like a perfect way to spend your weekend, you’ll find more information on the official website. I know it’s Halloween, so think of it as trick or treating for adults. Instead of collecting candy at doors, you sample adult treats like gourmet food, wine, and beer, and you don’t even have to dress up in a costume to do it.

The event itself is loads of fun, but if you want to round out your evening, sign up for one of the pre-event seminars. You’ll find them all listed here, but they cover topics like pairing cheese and port, creating sushi, making pasta, blending wine, and mixing your own drinks. Below is a video that covers the food-related sessions, which also involve alcoholic libations:

Want to go for pure drink? Here’s a description of the wine, beer, and spirits sessions:

Last year I had the pleasure of attending the Italian wine seminar. I thought it would be a tasting, with moderate samples of each of the wines described. “Taste” meant full portions and generous re-pours, so by the time I headed out to the causeway to attend the actual event, I was already in a great mood courtesy of the Italian vinos. Here’s a video of the session, which is also offered this year:

This year there’s also a beer garden which you can enjoy for an upgrade fee. Check out the video below to see why that’s a good idea if you’re a beer lover:

The Swan and Dolphin resorts are within walking distance of both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, so it’s easy to combine a day at the parks with a night of indulgence. You can also just head out for the evening to enjoy the food, drink, live entertainment, and a nice view of the Epcot fireworks. If you’d like to stay overnight so you don’t have to worry about over-indulging, the Swan and Dolphin have special Food and Wine Classic packages.

If you’re a food and wine fan, or if you’re just looking for a fun way to spend the weekend, the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic beckons. Whether you sign up for a seminar before you hit the booths or just come out for a night of drinking and dining, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

Night of Joy recap: Amazing night of music and fellowship at the Magic Kingdom

Night of Joy at the Magic Kingdom is over for another year. It’s hard to believe that Halloween events are just around the corner, but in the meantime, echoes of all the amazing music are still ringing in my ears (sometimes literally, as in the case of the rocking shows put on by the likes of Building 429 and Mandisa).

If you’d like another little taste of this event before it fades into 2014 history as a new line-up gears up for 2015, here are some videos:

Mandisa’s high energy opening medley:

Danny Gokey taking the stage during Mandisa’s set:

Chris Tomlin doing Waterfall, which was quite appropriate for the rainy first night:

Building 429 performing Where I Belong:

Matt Maher singing Your Grace is Enough:

I only brought my video camera for the first night so I could relax a bit on Sunday, which means that I don’t have any songs by Casting Crowns. However, I did have the opportunity to hear Mark Hall share his testimony. You can hear it, too, in the video below:

It was another great year in a long string of wonderful Christian music festivals. There’s something spellbinding about hearing your favorite bands with Cinderella Castle or Tomorrowland behind them. I’m sad that it’s over for another year, yet already looking forward to finding out next year’s line-up when Night of Joy returns once again.

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.