53 Days in Autumn – Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival

Epcot in SummerIn case you’re new here or have somehow missed the first 15 times I’ve made this announcement – I am going to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival for the first time this year!  I’m pretty stoked about it, too, as is my husband, Raymond.  See, we’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in September and this trip will be like a second honeymoon.  We’ve been dreaming, planning, and discussing visiting Walt Disney World during Food & Wine for a long time.  I love it when dreams come true, don’t you?

Food & Wine runs this year from September 19th to November 10th.  Raymond andView of World Showcase I will get to experience this special event for 7 days in October.  Mostly, we’ve always wanted to take advantage of all the limited-time food and beverage offerings – the ones everyone with an Epcot park ticket can enjoy at the special kiosks and booths set up for the event’s duration – all the food from different countries not normally represented in Epcot.  According to the Disney Food Blog, this year more than 25 marketplace booths will feature culinary samples from countries including Scotland, Brazil, Argentina and Chili (together in the Patagonia booth), Greece, Puerto Rico, and many more.  You’d think this would be enough, but I was thinking…

Epcot's France / Window DisplayA huge variety of special events within the main event are offered ranging from cooking demonstrations ($15 per person) to food and beverage pairings ($55) to cheese seminars ($79) to Parisian Breakfasts at Les Chefs de France ($39) and also a swanky sounding Italian White Truffle and Wine Pairing Dinner for a whopping $295 per person.  We’ve got only 4 ADRs (advance dining reservations) booked for the week and we’ve got tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party one evening.  That leaves plenty of time to book a couple of really special (romantic even) Food & Wine extra events for the two of us, right?

I’ve narrowed down the choices to a few things I thought we would enjoy that (sort of) fit into our budget and sound a little romantic.  Feel free to weigh in with comments and/or suggestions…Remember, we’ve never been to WDW for Food & Wine before and would welcome any tips and pointers you could offer.

So here’s what I was considering…

French Regional Lunch at Monsieur Paul ($135) – either the “Tour De France” version or the “Bordeaux, Cedric Villars, Les Domaines de Rothschild” session.  Either one will fit in our Epcot's France Pavilion / Monsieur Paulschedule.  They both begin at noon and end at 3:30 pm.  The Disney Food Blog describes this as “Have a four course lunch and learn about paired wines throughout the meal from a winery principle.”  That sounds suitably romantic to me…what do you think?

Another option I think we would like is either the Italian Food & Wine Pairings ($83) or the Italian Food & Beer Pairings ($76).  Both are held at Via Napoli which we’ve heard so many great things about, but have yet to try.  Either option, again, fits into our schedule – can go either Tuesday (beer) or Thursday (wine) from 1:30 – 3:30 pm.  How can we go wrong with Italian food and libations?

Epcot's Morocco Pavilion / Spice Road TableFinally, there are Food & Wine Pairings available at three other restaurants for $55 per person.  Choices include Tokyo Dining, Spice Road Table and Restaurant Marrakesh.  It’s been years since we’ve eaten in the Japan Pavilion and we’ve never eaten in Morocco.  We like to try new things, but I’m just not sure.  These are offered in the afternoon on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Advice is welcome!

Okay – Please!  If you’ve been to Food & Wine or even if you just have an opinion and want to weigh in – help me decide what extra special add-ons we need to make our first Food & Wine Festival experience the best it can be.

Sign for Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – If Indiana Jones Must Go

Scenery from Indiana Jones Epic Stunt SpectacularI am unusually acceptant of change – I mean, more than the average person.  I tend to be a change advocate, if you will, both in my personal and professional life.  Most of the time, I am perfectly fine with and in favor of change – I like new and different things.  Even learning to use new technology is pretty fun.  Let’s talk for a minute about changes at Walt Disney World specifically.  I was totally happy with losing Snow White’s Scary Adventure in favor of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  I might have been a tad less accepting of replacing Mr. Toad with Winnie the Pooh, but I got over it.  Let’s not mention the Snow White/Aurora/Fairytale Hall thing, okay?  (That’s the one time I can think of that I was completely opposed to change…best not get going on that again.)  The update to the hub in Magic Kingdom?  Bring it on!  Avatarland, ooops, sorry…Pandora over in Animal Kingdom?  Can’t WAIT!  If the Star Wars expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes place, I’ll be super excited for that, too.  I like Star Wars a lot.Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular / Golden Idol

What I might be sad over, though, is the rumored plan to close the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  Now, I don’t know if I really believe that will happen – Disney did purchase the Indiana Jones franchise, right?  Maybe they’ll keep Indy around now, at least in some form or fashion.  I would be all in favor of an update to the stunt show since little, if anything, has changed about the it since its debute in 1989.  The premise of the show is great – it recreates iconic scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and explains how the stunts and special effects are created.  There’s action, humor, thrills, and explosions!  What more could you Indiana Jones and Golden Idolask for in a 30 minute show?  Plus, there’s that great theme song….it’s the best.

I was 16 In 1981 when Raiders of the Lost Ark opened in theaters.  Indiana Jones was part nerd (hello, college professor) and part superhero.  He was lovably imperfect while clever and strong enough to defeat the villainous Nazis and save both the girl and the treasure.  Hands down, Raiders was one of the best movies I’d ever seen in my short 16 years and I still count it among my all time favorite movies.  Our dog’s name is Henry Jones, Jr. in honor of Indy and his amazing feats of daring do.  I sure will be a little sad at Walt Disney WorlIndiana Jones in Disney's Hollywood Studiosd if Indiana Jones must go, but if that happens, I have faith it will be okay.  Afterall, I understand that Raiders doesn’t mean nearly as much to most folks as it does to me.

But what if….

What if Disney, now that they own the Indiana Jones franchise, reintroduced Indiana Jones in a new way?  What if, like Disney did with Marvel superheros, Indy gets reinvented into an updated, but equally lovable incarnation and haIndiana Jones' Whip / Studios' Back Lot Tours new adventures with awesome story lines?  Like a phoenix from the ashes, the Indiana Jones franchise under Disney’s guidance, could become epic once more (let’s face it, that crystal skull thing was an abomination) - appealing to an entire new generation of fans, thus securing at least some sort of presence in the Studios for many years to come?  Maybe there’s hope for Indy yet!!!

What do you think?  Could there be a future at Walt Disney World for Indiana Jones?

Walt Disney: One Many's Dream feature wall

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

Walt Disney: One Man's Dream / Disney's Hollywood StudiosIf you haven’t done it before, next time you’re visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios and have about 30 minutes to spare - go see the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream exhibit.  If you’re a fan of all things Disney like I am – it’s an amazing experience and a prime opportunity to see and hear details about Walt Disney’s life and work.  It’s a great way to show children that Walt Disney is not just a brand or a company or a theme park – he was a real person - one who faced many hardships during his life and overcame them by refusing to give up on his dreams.

The exhibit, located in a sound stage on Mickey Avenue, begins with a treasure trove of Life-sized Walt Disney photo / Walt Disney: One Man's Dreammore than 400 artifacts from Walt Disney’s life.  Photos, vintage toys, props, costumes, sketches, and more are cleverly placed throughout the exhibit’s rooms.  There’s a lot to take in and the displays are each very interesting and unique.  You can see the special camera Walt used to film the very first cartoon with synchronized sound – Steamboat Willie.  You can see the special Oscars Walt Disney won for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  One of my favorite displays is of Walt Disney’s office as it was at Disney Studios in California.  I also love all the Mickey Mouse Club memorabilia.  As you meander through the rooms, you move forward in time, beginning with Walt Disney’s birth in Display wall in Walt Disney: One Man's Dream / Disney's Hollywood StudiosChicago and ending with models and dioramas of modern Disney theme park rides and attractions from around the world.

The experience ends with a 15 minute film and this, to me, is the best part!  In the movie, narrated by Julie Andrews, we get to see and hear Walt Disney as he describes his life in his own words.  Never-before-seen home movies allow us to get to know the passionate, happy man who made it his life’s mission to bring his own special brand of happiness to so many people around the world.  It’s no wonder Walt Disney’s name and legacy are still so important, playing an enormous role in our lives today.Walt Disney's Office Display in One Man's Dream

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream is a cool and quiet escape from the busy (and HOT) hustle and bustle of the Studios.  Tour the exhibits at your own pace and don’t miss the movie at the end which begins every 15 minutes throughout the day.  Oh, and if you’re a sappy sentimental cry baby like me, bring plenty of tissues.

Have you toured One Man’s Dream?  What was your favorite part of the exhibit?

Oswald Poster Mickey Mouse Club artifacts in One Man's Dream Castle Model in One Man's Dream The Walt Disney Theater inside One Man's Dream

The Great Movie Ride / Disney's Hollywood Studios

United States History at Walt Disney World

Today I’m excited to welcome guest writer, Andrew Carrieri!  Andrew can be found as a regular blog contributor at The Mouse for Less 

“I’m a huge fan of the various Disney theme parks and movies. I’ve made several trips to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland with my family. Additionally, I’m interested in sports and American history.” – Andrew Carrieri

“United States History at Walt Disney World”
Andrew Carrieri

The American Adventure / Epcot / Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney World is one of America’s greatest playgrounds, a place where people can go to escape their troubles and have fun. Still, there is a serious side to the destination; numerous aspects of United States history are represented there. I will discuss 10 examples of such representations in this post.

1) Tom Sawyer Island: Located in the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland and only accessible via raft, this oversized playground is based on one of the great works of American literature: Mark Twain’s 1884 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

2) The American Adventure: The American Adventure pavilion at Epcot houses an impressive 30-minute audio-animatronic show that highlights great moments in United States history from founding to the present. Featured individuals include suffragist Susan B. Anthony, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The show is hosted by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin.

it's a small world / Magic Kingdom / Walt Disney World
3) It’s a Small World: Walt Disney originally created this alternately heartwarming and infuriating attraction—ahh, get that song out of my head!—for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The boat ride, located in the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, uses themed sets and singing animatronics to promote “peace through understanding,” which was the theme of the 1964 World’s Fair.

4) Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress: Another animatronic attraction created by Disney for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the Carousel of Progress, located in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, shows guests how technological advances altered American family life through the course of the 20th century. The gas lamp, the radio, the automatic dishwasher, and the high-definition television are among the highlighted technologies.

5) Wilderness Lodge: This deluxe resort, situated only a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom, pays homage to the culture and history of the American northwest. Contemporary Resort / Walt Disney WorldThe main building is based on Yellowstone Park’s Old Faithful Inn and features a breathtaking eight-story lobby. Dining options range from the upscale Artist Point to the raucous Whispering Canyon Café.

6) Contemporary Resort: Noted for its impressive main tower that allows the monorail to pass through it, the Contemporary Resort hosted one of the most infamous moments in American history. At the resort on November 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon gave his “I am not a crook” speech such as to deny involvement in the Watergate Scandal. The speech notwithstanding, Nixon eventually became the only president in United States history to resign from office after almost-certain impeachment loomed.Liberty Square / Magic Kingdom / Walt Disney World

7) Liberty Square: This Magic Kingdom land is placed between Frontierland and Fantasyland, and exudes a colonial vibe. A replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell is present as are numerous attractions, shops, and restaurants. The full-service Liberty Tree Tavern offers traditional American fare, such as pot roast and roast turkey at lunch, and a family-style meal of turkey, pork loin, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and macaroni and cheese at dinner. Meanwhile, at the counter-service Sleepy Hollow restaurant, guests can enjoy funnel cakes and waffle sandwiches. Attractions include the heralded Haunted Mansion, the Liberty Square Riverboat, and the Hall of Presidents, which I will describe in more detail below.

Hall of Presidents Exterior / Magic Kingdom8) Hall of Presidents: A must-see for history buffs, the Hall of Presidents combines audio animatronics and film to survey United States history from the Revolutionary War to the present. The lives and presidencies of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy are especially highlighted, but a comprehensive roll call is given to include all of the leaders. This 23-minute show is updated whenever a new president takes office.

9) Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros: Featuring the three animated protagonists, Panchito Pistoles, Jose Carioca, and Donald Duck, from the 1944 film Gran Fiesta Tour / Mexico Pavilion / Epcot's World ShowcaseThe Three Caballeros, this boat ride through Epcot’s indoor Mexico Pavilion may not seem overly serious on the surface, but the reason for creating the film was serious. The Three Caballeros emerged from Disney’s previous animated feature, Saludos Amigos (1942), which came about after President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Disney to tour Latin America and create a related film that would positively depict the region. The purpose of his “Good Neighbor Policy,” Roosevelt wanted to garner support for the United States in Latin America at the expense of Germany during World War II.

10) Great Movie Ride: This attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios transports guests through scenes from some of the greatest films in American history, including Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Mary Poppins (1964), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

What other aspects of United States history are featured at Walt Disney World? Let me know your thoughts in a comment!