Must Be WDW Epcot Festival Fever

Festival of the Arts?  Flower and Garden?  Food & Wine?  Choices abound!  If you’re a fan of Epcot festivals, you now have more choices than ever!

Must Be WDW Epcot Festival Fever

I’ve had a great time following along with friends via social media during Epcot’s inaugural Festival of the Arts.  I’ll confess, I’ve also been Goofy-hat-green with envy.  This brand new festival runs Fridays through Mondays only from January 13th to February 20th this year (2017).  I hate that we couldn’t be there!  What a cool idea full of truly unique experiences!  Packed with art in many forms from Broadway performances to living statues to artists’ workshops and, of course, culinary arts.  What would an Epcot festival be without the food?  Several attendees I know have gone so far as to say Festival of the Arts may now be their most favorite festival.  Certainly this will become an annual event and I’m working hard on figuring out how I’m going to get there for at least one festival weekend next year.Epcot Food and Wine Festival Food

I’ve got Epcot Festival Fever.  Here’s how I know…I’ve managed to make sure I’ll be at Walt Disney World during both Flower and Garden and Food and Wine this year.  If I can pull off a visit during next year’s Festival of the Arts, it’ll be the festival trifecta!  For a non-local, I think that qualifies me as a true festival fan.

What’s the draw for us?Minnie Mouse Topiary 

Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival (March 1-May 29, 2017) – It’s springtime, the flowers are blooming and Epcot goes all out with music, topiaries, special seminars and yes, FOOD.  I’m particularly excited about this year’s lineup of offerings at the festival’s outdoor kitchens.  If you’re into gardening (we are!), there’s a lot to love including seminars and informational experiences to help you make the most of your green (or in my case, not so green) thumb.  Timed just right, the weather for most of the festival isn’t too hot and most schools are not yet out for the summer.  While our favorite time to take in Flower and Garden has been mid to late May, we’ll be visiting in April this year.Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival (August 31-November 13, 2017) – Yes, it’s extremely crowded at times and has a reputation for being a bit rowdy on the weekends, but Food and Wine can also be incredibly fun.  Raymond and I love the special food and wine pairing events offered during the festival.  Enjoying a long, leisurely lunch sampling tasty international flavors while learning about regional wines specific to the host pavilion is worth the splurge for wine lovers like us.  We like to spend our time at the festival early in the day rather than at night.  The craft beers and specialty food booths are great!  The weather in October and November is usually fantastic.Experiencing Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

We’ve found Epcot’s festival seasons to be an extra special time to visit Disney World.  Sharing tables with other visitors and getting to meet fellow festival fans is part of the fun.  Planning which booths and seminars are must-dos while leaving ample time for soaking up the extras allows us to make the most of these very special times of the year.

Are you a festival fan?  Which Epcot festival is your favorite?  Are you planning to be at Disney World during Flower and Garden or Food and Wine this year?

Disney World News! Good and Sad.

In recent days, tons of announcements have been pouring out from official Disney sites.  Rumors abound from unofficial sources.  Many of you, like me, have been on an emotional roller coaster.  Let’s discuss…

Disney World News!  Good and Sad.

Rivers of Light – Finally, it’s happening!  The ups and downs of this on-again, off-again nighttime spectacular have been uncharacteristically dramatic.  The attraction was part of this week’s Disney Social Media Moms conference events with pictures and video allowed (unlike previous previews).  Having watched this video (spoiler!), I’m probably not going to rush out and schedule FastPasses or a Dining Package for our next trip.  The show looks beautiful, but I’m okay with waiting until later in the year to see it.Disney World News - World of Pandora

World of Pandora – Officially opening on May 27th!  It’s been years (and years) in the making…I sure hope this controversial new Animal Kingdom land lives up to the hype.  While not overjoyed, I’m okay with the theme and think Pandora is in keeping with the park’s emphasis on the importance of conservation, but when “Avatarland” was first announced, it was hotly debated.  Many fans were angry and disappointed that a much-anticipated Animal Kingdom expansion would not be based on mystical/mythical creatures as had been originally intended for the park.  I’m hoping there’s something here for everyone/every age to enjoy.

Wishes – It’s been around for 15 years and has become a much-loved family vacation tradition for many fans.  While I will be sad to see it go simply because of the nostalgia, I’ve opted to watch it from afar for the past several Disney World visits.  I’m ready for a new show!  “Happily Ever After” will debut May 12, 2017.Starring Rolls Cafe / Disney's Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls – Okay, this one hurts.  Starring Rolls closed with virtually no notice on February 4th.  I’m sure the space is badly needed for a rumored expansion to the Brown Derby lounge, but this closure puts a big hole in the middle of our traditional Studios touring plan.  Yes, I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy about it.  I want breakfast at an umbrella table so I can people-watch and relax between rides on Tower of Terror and Star Tours.  I better still be able to find a Butterfinger cupcake when I want one.

Star Wars Land – Days ago Disney announced a projected 2019 opening for this large expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

From the Disney Parks Blog:  “As we’ve shared, the Star Wars-themed lands are the largest-ever, single-themed land expansions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. At each location, guests will be transported to a never-before-seen planet – a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space – where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.” 

I love Star Wars and have been a fan since the very beginning (I’m old, I know).  I’ve been impressed with the already existing Star Wars areas of the park and am 100% certain Disney Imagineering is up to the task of making the expansion every bit as great as fans of this franchise are expecting.

What bit of recent Disney news are you most exited about?  Are you unhappy with any of the upcoming changes?

 

Details along the Maharajah Jungle Trek

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Tiger’s AWAKE!

Have you taken the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  Have you seen the tigers?  It’s been our experience that they do an extraordinary amount of sleeping.  On our last visit, though, something was decidedly different…

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Tiger’s AWAKE!

It started off as expected.  Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the two trails in Animal Kingdom and can spend quite a bit of time checking out both the incredible theming and landscaping along with all the amazing animals on both Gorilla Falls AND the Jungle Trek.  What I mean by “expected” is that the adorable and mostly stationary Komodo Dragon was just where he should be.  The bats, fascinating as they are, were y’know, just hanging around.  We were in no hurry as we strolled along taking in the much loved scenery on they way to the tiger enclosure.

There was a cast member in the middle of the pathway.  She was crouching down and cranking what looked like a large wrench attached to something in the ground.  I wanted to take a picture, but could tell this was one of those backstage things Disney really likes to keep secret.  It turns out, she was opening a gate inside the tiger area that would allow the male tiger to change enclosures.  Hopefully, being a good tiger, he’d do what was expected of him by moving to the newly opened area and be rewarded for his efforts.

There he was!  So used to seeing the tigers napping, we were completely enthralled by how gorgeous this one was as he strutted around, sniffing the special perfumes sprayed around the enclosure for his enjoyment.  Then it was treat time and he waited patiently as chunks of meat were tossed to him as a reward for doing exactly want was wanted.

Even asleep, the tigers in Animal Kingdom are fantastic.  Awake?  Incredible!!!  What a great moment – in the right place at the right time – to see that big, beautiful creature in all his feline glory.

Have you been on the Maharajah Jungle Trek?  What were the tigers doing when you were there?

 

Disney’s Victoria and Albert’s – Big Decision

Raymond and I are planning a quick trip to Disney World for the Food & Wine Festival this year.  We’re going the weekend before my birthday which made Raymond start to think about planning something special to celebrate, I guess, because he asked me if I wanted to go to Victoria and Albert’s.  Yes!  Wait!  Maybe.  I don’t know, to be honest.  I’m pretty decisive, but this one’s got me waffling.  Do I want to find out first hand exactly what it’s like to dine in a restaurant that’s received AAA’s Five Diamond Award (every year since 2000) and is currently ranked by Trip Advisor as the #2 restaurant in Orlando?  Do I?

Disney’s Victoria and Albert’s – Big DecisionCalifornia Grill won out over Victoria and Albert's for our 25th anniversary

Back in 2014 when we celebrated our 25th anniversary sans kids at Disney World, Raymond suggested Victoria and Albert’s then too.  I chose California Grill instead.  I can’t pinpoint my hesitation for not jumping on board with this idea.  If I put my thoughts on it here, maybe you will help me make a final decision?  WHY is this even difficult?  Poor Raymond’s been asking me, “Well?” with eyebrows raised every few days.  I guess it’s pretty clear which way he hopes I decide.Dressed up for Dinner at Remy. Would Victoria and Albert's be as good?

The closest we’ve come to a Victoria and Albert’s experience was when we dined at Remy on the Disney Dream.  Multiple courses, haute cuisine, excellent wine, impeccable service.  We loved both dinner and brunch.  Certainly Victoria and Albert’s would be similar…better maybe.  Chef Hunnel from Victoria and Albert’s is responsible for half of the menu items served at Remy.Dish served at Remy. Would Victoria and Albert's be similar?

IF we were to book a reservation at Victoria and Albert’s, I understand we’d have three options:

The Dining Room Sounds like the most economical and low frills experience.  That’s unflattering and selling it short and I’m sure it’s beyond amazing, but The Dining Room is the most basic option.  We can choose a 7- or 10-course meal and add wine pairings for a hefty upcharge.  While the restaurant’s menu changes daily, I found this example of the 7-course experience.

Queen Victoria’s Room – This room only seats eight and only offers a 10-course meal.  For wine enthusiasts like us, this experience sounds mighty tempting.

“Behind closed doors, elegant, intimate Queen Victoria’s Room seats just eight guests for a ten-course dinner with French gueridon service and wine pairings exclusive to the private room. Guests learn how chef and sommelier work together to identify the chemistry of each amazing dish paired with the perfect vintage.” – Victoria and Albert’s website.

Chef’s Table  – What if, by some miracle, two seats were available for the date we wanted to go?  As the most expensive option of all, this experience would also be exceptionally appealing to me since I love to cook and am not afraid to try new recipes and food prep techniques…the stuff I could learn!  I could see this leading to bankruptcy via Williams Sonoma by uncovering previously unknown kitchen gadget needs.  Culinary foam is all the rage and there’s a tool for that.  Bet I could make some awesome desserts with a kitchen torch.  Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table…a double-edged sword.

I found this Touring Plans article that includes pricing, so now I know what kind of investment this potential dinner will require.  Yikes!  (I know…This from the woman who recently dropped $250 per person for the Wild Africa Trek, but it was for Christmas!)  I though our Remy dinner was crazy expensive (about $400, everything included) and we didn’t even have the wine pairings (just ordered a single bottle).  Is my hesitation simply due to the fear that plunking down possibly $1000 or more for a single meal would be insane?  I’m all for experiences and happy memories, but oh, the stuff I could do with $1000!

Yes, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing.  Yes, I’ll have a fancy romantic dinner out with my favorite person.  I’m sure many people wish their spouse would ask them to have dinner at Victoria and Albert’s and I should (and do) consider myself extremely fortunate.  But I’m still undecided!

Please, if you’ve been to Victoria and Albert’s or if you’re dreaming of someday going, jump on in here and help a girl out!  Worth it?  Waste of money?  Best pros and cons you can offer would be very much appreciated!