Dec 13

Dates for the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

epcot flower and garden festival topiary lady tramp

Disney gardeners will paint the landscape with rainbows of blooms while Epcot chefs tempt guests with marketplace tastes during the 21st Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 5th – May 18th, 2014, at Walt Disney World Resort.

New in 2014, a floral Miss Piggy will join Kermit and his blooming banjo in the World Showcase topiary display. In the Epcot front entrance garden, Goofy, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck in larger-than-life topiary splendor will celebrate spring with a butterfly hunt adventure and welcome guests to the park. A new Timon topiary will join Pumbaa near the park’s outpost location between China and Germany.

The garden party continues for 75 days. After debuting in 2013, the food-and-beverage marketplaces will return with new menu items for Disney guests to enjoy, such as Piggylicious Bacon Cupcakes and a Barbecued Chicken Leg at the Smokehouse Barbecue Marketplace. As they sample from marketplace menus of gustatory delights, guests can wander among themed gardens and children’s play areas. Most gardens will be illuminated when the sun sets to extend the festival fun.

At the Festival Center, daily interactive gardening seminars will set the stage for outdoor do-it-yourself inspiration, and popular HGTV celebrities will headline weekend seminars filled with home, garden and design ideas.

Back by demand, the Disney-Pixar “Cars” garden and playground will bring favorite movie characters to life.  Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House will be aflutter with hundreds of the winged beauties and intricate fairy topiaries including Tinker Bell and Periwinkle.

Two new acts will hit the stage at America Gardens Theatre during the 2014 Flower Power Concert Series: Gary Lewis and the Playboys (“This Diamond Ring”) and The Alan Parsons Live Project (“Eye in the Sky”). Other pop acts set to perform include The Guess Who (“America Woman”), Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, The Village People, Paul Revere & The Raiders and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. (Entertainment is subject to change.)

Dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers,” herb gardens and beds of multi-colored blooms will add to the floral splendor of the park’s landscape. Disney’s garden gurus estimate 70,000 bedding plants will surround the Future World east and west lakes alone; on the water, 220 mini-gardens will be set afloat. Several special weekend happenings, including the popular Art in the Garden Weekend, will be scheduled.

The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.

Dec 13

New Years Eve Schedule of Events at Walt Disney World Resort

new years eve toast disney 2014

Every day is a celebration at Walt Disney World Resort but New Year’s Eve is certainly one of the largest. From lunches and dinners to brunches and dessert buffets, there are over a dozen spots for ringing in the New Year with fine fare. Also, there is no shortage of fireworks and nighttime shows that will light up the skies and create a mood of celebration at the parks on Dec. 31, 2013.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom will feature not one, but two nights of fireworks to commemorate the coming New Year. On both Dec. 30 and 31, Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season nighttime spectacular will occur at 9 p.m. with a special presentation of Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks lighting the night at 11:50 p.m. On Dec. 31, Tomorrowland Terrace will feature a special ticket New Year’s Eve fireworks dinner and dessert party.


At Epcot World Showcase, Biergarten Restaurant in the Germany pavilion is offering both lunch and dinner celebrations; La Hacienda de San Angel in the Mexico pavilion is hosting a special dinner; Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada pavilion has three holiday seatings, and Monsieur Paul in the France pavilion starts celebrating at noon with seatings throughout the day and evening. A buffet dining experience will take place at World ShowPlace, with reservations available from 4:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

World Showcase also will host a party with a variety of DJs located at select pavilions. The lineup includes DJ Scooter (Top 40) at the Future World Fountain Stage, DJ Mark Sanchez (European Techno/Pop) on the Italy Stage, DJ Carlos Carrion (Latin Dance/Top 40) in the America Gardens Theatre and DJ David Griffiths (British Revolution Style) on the United Kingdom Stage, amongst others. There also will be two showings of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth with a holiday finale at 6:30 p.m. and New Year’s countdown at 11:40 p.m.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios guests can rock in the New Year with Mulch, Sweat and Shears, the resident landscaping rock and roll band. The Mulch, Sweat and Shears New Years’ Eve Spectacular will feature sets of classic rock and roll, special effects, a DJ spinning dance tracks and an unforgettable fireworks display. The party starts a 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 and will feature a countdown to a midnight celebration to kick off the New Year.

Downtown Disney

The Downtown Disney area will be alive with entertainment to welcome the coming New Year. With a variety of performers ranging from a DJ at the Cirque du Soleil Stage to Keith Park’s Living Statues, there will be no shortage of sights and sounds adding to the festive atmosphere. Special New Year’s Eve celebrations also will take place at House of Blues, Bongo’s Cuban Café, Paradiso 37 and Raglan Road.

In addition, DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park is hosting a special ticket New Year’s Eve event. The evening will be filled with fun, food, games, music and dancing and includes access to all DisneyQuest attractions and video games. There also will be special experiences such as meet-and-greets with some beloved Disney characters and a New Year’s Eve countdown, complete with confetti drop to kick off the New Year.


In the resorts, special dining for ringing in the New Year is planned at Flying Fish Café at Disney’s BoardWalk; Cítricos, Victoria & Albert’s and Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa; California Grill and Chef Mickey’s (New Year’s Day brunch) at Disney’s Contemporary Resort; and Boma – Flavors of Africa (New Year’s Day breakfast) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Dec 13

Connor and Isabella Cruise Take on the Yeti at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

connor and isabella cruise disney expedition everest animal kingdom 2013

Tom Cruise’s kids, Connor and a red-headed Isabella, took a wild ride on Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park yesterday. The kids were celebrating Isabella’s birthday. She turns 21 today.

Dec 13

2013 runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Race Recap


New Years Resolutions. Some people say that they are stupid. Gyms are bursting with couch potatoes come January 1st and then parking lots are bare in front of those very same gyms just a few months later.

But some people….some people keep those New Years Resolutions. I was one of them.

A few years back I was a 225 pound couch potato who was inspired by runDisney to lose some weight and sign up for a half marathon.  That very first half marathon was the 2011 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. I finished in 3:29 and I was stiff as a board after crossing that finish line.

This year I finished in 2:58 and felt like a million bucks. I had finally broken through my 3 hour half time and it was my very first solo half marathon where I ran intervals. My what a difference two years and proper training can make.

This race was also special because I finally converted two of my best friends into runDisney half marathon addicts. Rick and Leslie Howard of Kingdom Magic Vacations. Here they are at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort ready to run in their very first half marathons.

rick and leslie howard disney wine and dine half marathon

Rick and Leslie both ran sub 3 hour halfs. AMAZING! We made our way from Port Orleans  to the Epcot parking lot. I wasn’t staying on Disney property after the race. I was going to drive home. Perk of being a local. This was my first Disney half marathon where I wouldn’t be staying at a Disney resort after my race. I knew I would want my car right there in the parking lot at Epcot so I wouldn’t have to take a bus to Port Orleans and then drive home. I have yet to feel like walking around World Showcase after this race. Maybe in 2014?

Rick and Leslie on the bus on our way from Epcot to Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports…where the race start was.

rick and leslie howard 2013 disney wine and dine half marathon bus

This was a first. Security checkpoint before entering the race staging area. Went smoothly.

security bag check 2013 disney wine and dine half marathon

Here’s official bag check. Another smoothly run station with no wait.

bag check 2013 disney wine and dine half marathon

We had a few hours to kill so we found a spot on the grass and sat down and chilled for a while. We found our friends Carrie and Kevin.

2013 disney wine and dine half marathon race recap

And I also ran into some more of my runDisney friends Shalon, Todd and Cliff.

2013 disney wine and dine half marathon race recap amanda tinney

We made our way over to the port-o-potty city and stood in line for a half hour there. Leslie and I happened to be in the same corral…thank goodness. We decided it was time to get in position a lil bit early so we could find a nice spot to sit down and save our legs before it got uber crowded up in there.

I had a nice time talking to these gals while we waited.

amanda tinney disney wine dine half marathon expo

The time had finally arrived and the fireworks for previous coral starts were slowly sounding of as we inched closer to the start line.

2013 disney wine and dine half marathon race recap start line

Even though Leslie and I were in the same corral, we were not going to be running together. She does a straight run and I am a run/walker. I downed a GU. Put my yurbuds in my ears and pushed “Start” on my GPS watch.  I had been training with a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds/30 seconds. This would be my first race doing a strict pace of 30/30s.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to pace myself that way until I got out of the congestion of the start. And that point would be the turn onto Osceola Parkway headed towards Animal Kingdom. I just plodded along with a fairly slow pace until I hit that point. When I got onto the parkway and the runners spread out, I turned on my iPhone interval app and started running 30/30s.

I knew I would have to push through a few of the 30 second runs and turn them into 60 second runs so that I could make up for lost time at the start. However, I never took more than a 30 second walk break. It took me until around mile 5 before I really started feeling like I could sub 3 hours. I just kept looking down at my GPS watch to make sure I was under a 13:43 average pace.

Because I ran this race alone, I didn’t really think to take any pictures. I snapped one. When we ran down the Streets of America and through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is really the most magical part of the race!

2013 disney wine and dine half marathon race recap DHS osborne lights

I had my doubts after I exited DHS about weather I would finish in under 3 hours. I knew the path from DHS to Epcot was narrow and it had been the most congested portion of the race in years past.

I was excited to be passing new runners. See, for the majority of the race I had been bobbing back and forth with the same group of runners. They’d pass me. Then I’d take a walk break. Then I’d pass them and so on. Well because I had been doing the run/walk/run, I had quite  bit of gas left in my tank towards the end of the race and I was seeing the backs of new heads. It felt GREAT!

I entered Epcot with a renewed sense of accomplishment. I blasted through Future World and then past where we normally see the gospel choir. Then came the blinding RAVE lights and I knew I was close to the finish line. I was going to do it! I was going to finish in under 3 hours! I pushed as hard as I could and gave it everything that I had and finished with both hands raised high in victory!

2013 disney wine and dine half marathon race recap amanda tinney rick leslie howard

I looked down at my GPS watch. Under 3 hours. I waited for my official finish time to be texted to me. YES! Officially under 3 hours. A few seconds later and Rick finished with a time only seconds difference from mine. Leslie was waiting for us just beyond the finish line. She had subbed 3 hours as well. I asked them if they had plans to run any more Disney half marathons to which I got an emphatic YES from both of them.

I was too pooped to hang out with them after the race. I knew I had an hour drive home and a shower in my future and it was already 2am.

This continues to be my favorite runDisney half marathon and the only one in which you can run through three of the four Walt Disney World theme parks.  See y’all in 2014!!!

2013 disney wine and dine half marathon race recap medal

Dec 13

Dear Santa – I’ll Take a Dozen Christmas Krispy Kremes

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Christmas Holiday DonutsKrispy Kreme. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a dozen fresh off the line. If you don’t know what I’m talking about I weep for you.

A few weeks ago I was invited to the Krispy Kreme store near Walt Disney World to sample the holiday flavors available this Christmas. By the way…a box of these would make an amazing Christmas present.

When I arrived the donut elves were in full swing preparing hot and fresh doughnuts. Have you seen anything so sticky and glorious?

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts hot and fresh off the lineKrispy Kreme Doughnuts on the line fresh hotWhen presented with the case, we had a hard time deciding so I just asked the baker to put a batch of the best holiday flavors together for me.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Christmas Holiday Donuts flavorsThe wreaths, holiday sprinkles and snowmen were yeast-raised glazed with frosting. The pumpkin spice was a divine glazed cake doughnut perfect for dipping into a cold glass of milk or hot coffee.

See…the box is pretty enough to gift on its own.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts light up the holidays christmas donutsMy daughter loved the red velvet cake with cream cheese icing. I have to admit that I loved the footballs most of all. Chocolate frosted with a vanilla cream center. You can get these special football donuts until the Superbowl.  The rest of the holiday flavors are only available for a limited time.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Christmas Holiday DonutsIf you’re in the Walt Disney World area and you get a hankering for doughnuts or if you’re visiting and you’d like to pick up a great Christmas gift for your family that you won’t have to lug back home in your suitcase, consider stopping by Krispy Kreme for a fresh dozen.

Krispy Kreme is located at 5318 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746.  Hot Light Hours are 6-11 AM and 6-11 PM (or closing).

A big thanks to the Kissimmee Krispy Kreme for the complementary holiday dozen. I’ll be back for more! This is a regular stop for us on the way home after a long day at the Walt Disney World theme parks.