Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

IMG_4880Last week, Disney announced that for the first time, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will host FIVE Star Wars Weekends in 2014.  Beginning Friday, May 16th and concluding Sunday, June 15th, guests of Walt Disney World will be able to enjoy all the exciting events and special guests Disney’s unique tribute to all that is Star Wars encompasses.  Since 1997, Disney’s Star Wars Weekends have offered visitors the opportunity to become immersed in the epic battle between the Rebel Alliance’s good guys and the Dark Side’s villains through a wide variety of special events – those Disney Jedi knights really know how to throw a party!

We have a habit of visiting Walt Disney World at the end of May.  Here in the South, schools get out for the summer a bit earlier than they do up North.  Plus, Raymond’s birthday is at the end of May and it’s always great to celebrate a birthday at Disney World!  So, these May visits mean that we’ve been to several Star Wars Weekends over the years.  For those of you who’ve been wondering what all the hoopla’s abIMG_4856out and if these events are mostly geared towards the avid Star Wars fan, let me explain.

Five Great Things about Star Wars Weekends!

1. Excitement is in The Air!  Evidence of all the magic Disney pours into making Star Wars Weekends truly special is all around you.  We are not major fans, but can’t help but be impressed!  Details large and small abound.  We’ve been greeted by Stormtroopers on the roof of the main gate,  seen Jedi Mickey posing for pictures, and, I don’t know, but for some reason, the Star Tours attraction even seems especially fun during Star Wars Weekends!

DSCN25652. Darth’s Mall – Special merchandise – really cool stuff – is available only during Star Wars Weekends.  Darth’s Mall is an actual shopping location, in the form of a gigantic tent sale, set up in an area near Rock’n’ Roller Coaster.

3. Photo Ops, Meet and Greets – Spread throughout the park are opportunities for great pictures with some of your favorite Star Wars characters – even monsters!  Actors from Star Wars movies and cartoons are on hand for autograph signing – they even ride in special motorcades through the park.

4. Dressing as Your Favorite Star Wars Character is A-OK! – Diehard fans get into character – donning their very best costumes for total immersion into the spirit of the event.  It’s great to IMG_5382see how detailed and creative some super-fans can be.  Just showing off your love for Yoda or a certain Wookie is tons of fun!

5. The Jedi Training Academy – if you have a young Padawan, he or she may be chosen to hone their lightsaber skills with a Jedi mentor – on stage!  Times guides will provide information on when this opportunity is available (several times each day) – watching appears to be almost as much fun as being a participant.  You can’t help but love seeing those adorable little Jedis-in-training all dressed up for this event!

The theme for 2014 is “Join the Rebellion” – will you be enjoying a Star Wars Weekend this year?





Who Would Love Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Ride?

IMG_0907Last time we were at Walt Disney World, Raymond and I took a break from the parks and went back to the Contemporary – he had a massage scheduled at the Olympiad Fitness Center (a birthday gift from ME!) and I, as usual, was starving.  So we had a few minutes before Raymond’s appointment to grab a bite at The Wave (excellent!) – then he went his way and I was, for the first time in my life, on my own at Disney World.

I walked straight to the Magic Kingdom.  The day (end of May) had been a bit rainy and, while the rain had stopped, it was kind of cool out.  I remember I was wearing my favorite Donald Duck sweatshirt (and received lots of random compliments on it from strangers) as I made my way toward the as yet mostly unfinished Fantasyland expansion.  The park was unusually un-crowded.

I was curious – nosy even (shocker that!) and wanted to see the new Circus area since I’d heard a IMG_0874LOT about the animal footprints and peanut shell marks in the concrete.  I wanted to check out what little I could see over the construction walls…I wanted to ride Goofy’s Barnstormer.

A strange thing happened on the way to the Circus – I, all alone at the Magic Kingdom, picked up (unknowingly) what would be one of the last paper fastpasses I would ever obtain.  For The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Don’t ask me what prompted that – I was on a mission to see the Storybook Circus.  There was just something about the look of Winnie the Pooh – I had never ever ridden it.  I was on my own and feeling like I could do anything I wanted…I wanted to ride Winnie the Pooh.  Go figure.

IMG_0902Walking on, fastpass in hand, I had time to see the ground in the Storybook Circus area with the footprints and peanut-marks in the cement.  I had time to ride Barnstormer – seriously?  TIME?  The ride lasts literally less than a minute! – Great first coaster for little ones, by the way.  You only need to be 35″ tall to ride.  Mission accomplished – time for Pooh!

At the time, I had no idea that the original queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was supposed to be much cooler than the final version.  I thought it looked pretty neat!  Rabbit’s garden, honey everywhere, interactive parts, highly detailed, well-themed.  I was pretty impressed.

No waiting – I played that fastpass – and suddenly, I found myself waiting to board my pot-o-IMG_0908honey!  I think that’s when it hit me that I was alone in Magic Kingdom, but didn’t feel weird or uncomfortable.  Heck!  I felt adventurous.  For many years, I’d been MAD at Pooh for booting Mr. Toad to the curb and was ready to let bygones be bygones and give it a try!

Annnnnd.  It was cute!  Sweet (ha! pun intended) and the characters were adorable.  For 3 whole minutes, I rode along solo in my little honey pot and remembered how much I used to love those Winnie the Pooh stories.  Piglet was always my favorite character – the IMG_1259blustery day story particularly.  Here it was!  All lovingly recreated by those clever Disney Imagineers – All the gang, even Heffalumps and Woozles were there.  It hit me when I saw the small tribute to Mr. Toad himself, that I shouldn’t have been mad at Pooh to begin with.  I’m normally the least-adverse-to-change person I know – why I’d been holding a grudge for years and years against the very existence of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh without even giving it a chance – I have no idea!

This ride is great for all ages, but particularly the very young.  As a beginner dark ride, it’s perfect.  If you grew up with Pooh IMG_1261and friends, you’ll enjoy the different scenes.  The little kiddos will like the queue, the ride vehicles, and the colorful characters along the journey.  Who would love Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Ride?  I would!  You will!  And so will your children.


Walt Disney World Resources – On the Web

LADL Computer picWhile I’m living a Disney life, I spend a great deal of time reading what other people have to say about Disney.  I particularly like online Disney resources for getting the scoop on other Disney fans’ experiences and opinions and for quickly getting official information for planning my own Disney vacations.  Today I wanted to take a minute to share with you just five of my favorite web-based Disney resources and why I love them.  Please be sure to leave me a comment if some of your favorites are not on this list!

1. – The official Disney World website.  This is a great “big picture” resource for official information.  You can find out general information, use trip-planning tools, compare resorts, ticket prices, and dining plans, see some fantastic pictures, and a lot more.  This site also offers assistance from the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel where you can find the answers to TONS of questions about all things Disney – and if the answer you’re looking for is not there?  Ask away and a panel expert will be happy to assist.  What you will not find at this official web locale is balanced feedback – there will be no negatives, drawbacks or “cons” – makes for a whole lot of pixie-dusted positivity, but sometimes when you’re deciding between restaurants or resorts, it’s good to know both the good and the not-so-good.

2. The first online unofficial Disney resource I ever used and still one of my favorites.  Why?  Because it offers positive, thorough, well-researched information.  If you want restaurant menus, look here.  If you want honest Walt Disney World resort reviews, check this out.  The folks at allears are great about bringing all the latest news, planning tools, event Computer Piccalendars, and more in a concise, friendly way that has never ever once let me down.  Check out their blog section – there are several to choose from.  A particular favorite of mine has always been The World According to Jack.  His recent article on Disney’s Restroom Evolution was clever and informative and insightful – and about bathrooms!

3. and TheDISboards forums – I’ve mentioned this site several times in the past.  There’s a great deal of information here about Disney and Universal Orlando along with some terrific blog articles and excellent videos.  The Disney cruise boards are a fantastic place for Cruise Meets (find out who else is going with you) and joining Fish Extender groups.  The resort and restaurant reviews can be extremely helpful as can the trip reports.  Plus, DISboards has a handy smartphone app!  What you really need to watch out for, though, are the trolls, haters, and rumor-mongers who love to stir up heaps of unhappiness on these forums.  This site can be a double-edged sword if you’re not prepared to dismiss some of the negativity there – recognize it for what it is:  Some people are negative by nature, hate change, and don’t understand the Disney Bubble.  Don’t let them get you down!

4.  Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos – I don’t just like this site because I’m a contributing Diva Sitewriter (as Darlin’ Diva).  I like it because there are dozens of writers.  Disney experts from all over sharing tips, tricks, and reviews for making the most of your Disney vacation – that’s a LOT of different points of view!  Adult travel?  Check.  Traveling with infants, toddlers, grade-schoolers, tweens, or teens?  Check.  Traveling to Disneyland, Disney World, or on a Disney Cruise – they’ve got you covered.  Special dietary needs?  Yes, even that.  Best thing:  if you don’t find what you need to know – ASK!  The Divas and Devos are ready to assist in any way and make every effort to answer your question quickly and accurately.

5. – The official site for Disney Cruise Line.  A great resource for finding a cruise, comparing stateroom categories, shopping cruise excursions, and more.  Even if you have a favorite travel agent, the Disney Cruise site has loads of useful information.  Again – being officially Disney – you’ll only get the positives and sometimes fewer details than you’d like.  This is the place to go if you need to know exactly what Disney’s offering in each port activity-wise.  When cruising on vacation, I believe there’s nothing more important than being an informed consumer.

So, are any of your favorites the same as mine?  Which websites do you find the most helpful?

What if Wednesday – Disney Olympics Version

What if WednesdayLadies and Gentlemen!  It’s time once again for What-If Wednesday!  The game show where we use our Disney imaginations to answer the question “What if?”.  Contestants from Twitter and Facebook go head to head and compete to invent the most popular answers.  Get ready to let your
imagination run wild!  As Drew Carey would say, this is ”the show where
everything’s made up and the points don’t matter
.”  Let’s play!

This week’s Question:  What if Walt Disney World held Olympic events?  What would they be?

Amy from Facebook (a huge fan of Disneyland) kicked us off with:  “One time, our Main Street atIMG_2139 DL had a giant pool on it for Michael Phelps. It was so cool! I’d like to see that in person!”  Let’s think….Hmmmmm.  if we move the oh-so-inconveniently-located Magic Carpets of Aladdin over in Adventureland and put in a pool – filled with obstacles that pop up as you swim like Jungle Cruise animals and Pirates from the Caribbean – contestants and spectators alike would have a pretty good time!

Upon A Star Jenn from Twitter (@UponAStarJenn)  Asked “what about park jumping? I definitely qualify!”  Agreed.  This takes skill, perfect timing, keen eyesight (for making your way through crowds of other guests).  Here’s how this event could work – Contestants are assigned 4 rides – one in each of the 4 parks.  The person who completes all the rides in the shortest time takes GOLD!

Jenn had a second suggestion – “How about stroller dodging?”  Now I had already thought a Stroller Slalom event would be fun, but stroller dodging is an actual necessity at all Disney Tower of Terror Collageparks!  What if we combined the two?  A stroller course (with obstacles) through, say, the Magic Kingdom where stroller drivers must race to complete the course in record time while pedestrians are given a course of their own to complete without being mowed down by the stroller drivers.  Oh, yeah – thrills, action, danger – all the makings of great entertainment.

Bill Maguire from Twitter (@wfmaguire) is ready!  He tweeted “sign me up for tower of terror drop freestyle.”  Oh, Bill!  This one’s my absolute favorite.  Points for skill / level of difficulty and points for artistic style.  Think about the types of costumes one could wear to compete in this event!  No doubt about it – this would be a spectator sell-out.

Rebecca Kelly °o° (@rkellyWDW) tweeted her idea for a competition – “consecutive rides on the Mad Teacups? That’s GOT to be considered an endurance sport!” That would take both stamina and strong constitution (if you know what I mean)…which leads us to Rebecca’s other suggestion:   “And now on the Projectile Vomiting Event… ;D”IMG_3298

I was wondering how long it would be before someone suggested a food-related event and Twitter follower 1 Min Disney Dream (@1MinDisneyDream) Didn’t let me down.  His idea?  An event based on this:   “How many Dole Whips can you eat in 20 minutes?”  Now, I know how many Dole Whip enthusiasts there are out there.  Exactly what number of Disney’s famous “popular frozen treat blended in pineapple, orange, vanilla or swirled flavors” do you suppose one can consume in 20 minutes?  How much of a factor would painful brain freeze play in the competition?  If you want to try it at home and let me know, here’s a Dole Whip recipe you can use.

Which of these events do you think You’d like to try?

Thanks for playing!