Jan 13

Limited Time Magic Brings Us “Long Lost Friends Week” at Walt Disney World

Limited Time magic long Lost Friends Week Disney

Rarely seen Disney characters such as Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio and Geppetto have returned to the Magic Kingdom this week for a limited time only. It is all part of ‘Limited Time Magic,’ featuring 52 weeks of magical experiences big and small in 2013 that appear, then disappear as the next special surprise debuts. During ‘Long Lost Friends Week,’ lesser-known Disney characters will step into the spotlight January 21-27, 2013 for meet and greets at Town Square in Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort. Fans will have the unique chance to get up-close and personal and enjoy photo opportunities with characters that could include Clarabelle Cow, Robin Hood or The Three Little Pigs.

Jan 13

Dates and What’s New for the 2013 20th Annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot Flower and Garden festival 20th

A blooming bounty of festival firsts will welcome Disney guests to the 20th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival presented by HGTV March 6-May 19, 2013 at Walt Disney World Resort.  First, the news:

  • Epcot chefs will cook up first-time festival food and beverage fun, with special cooking stations offering exclusive-to-the-festival bites along the park’s World Showcase promenade.
  • A new circus-like “Land of Oz Play Area,” based on the Disney fantastical film adventure “Oz: The Great and Powerful” to be released in March 2013, will debut a kaleidoscope of interactive fun.
  • Disney topiary experts will grow, shape and manicure a Fab Five Disney character topiary with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck (with Daisy Duck in a cameo) featured in a celebratory floral cookout scene in living topiary color at the park’s front entrance.
  • New illuminated gardens in the park’s Future World and World Showcase will cast a colorful glow over each festival evening.

Throughout the 75-day garden party, guests will discover festival surprises around every corner including new topiary triumphs, colorful garden displays, a butterfly bounty, HGTV celebrity designers, interactive gardening seminars and whimsical children’s play areas.  On weekends, top Flower Power rockers of the 1960s and ’70s will perform.

Every Friday through Sunday, HGTV design celebrities will host Festival Center seminars.  During opening weekend, March 8-10, Chris Lambton of “Going Yard” will appear; other designers scheduled to take the stage include Brandon Johnson of “My Yard Goes Disney” and Meg Caswell of “Meg’s Great Rooms.”

Now the details:

  • Festival-themed flavors:  Guests will discover culinary creations and refreshing libations at multiple festival-themed food and beverage locations.  Chefs are tweaking the menu to include backyard barbecue and a variety of garden-inspired and global tastes.  Around the World Showcase promenade
  • Fab Five topiary barbecue: 14-foot-tall topiary Goofy will bobble an anniversary cake while Donald and Daisy play badminton, Mickey fires up the grill, Pluto swipes a link of hot dogs and Minnie chills out on a colorful blanket of blossoms. At Epcot Front Entrance
  • Land of Oz Play Area:  This interactive new children’s play zone will feature play systems adorned with giant flowers and designed to stretch kids’ imaginations and muscles. Midway-style games, red-and-white circus-themed tents and the “Oz Movie Garden” of intriguing plants will capture the spirit of the upcoming “Oz: The Great and Powerful.”  Also on tap: fun games, photo opportunities, the “great and powerful Oz’s” crashed hot-air balloon and lush plants inspired by the movie.  On the Imagination Walkway
  • Illuminated Gardens:  Every night when the sun sets, many of the festival’s world-famous Disney topiaries and gardens will twinkle and shine in a new light.  Throughout World Showcase and Future World
  • “Monsters University” topiary:  Floral representations of Mike and Sully from the hit Disney-Pixar film “Monsters, Inc.” and stars of Disney-Pixar’s June 2013 release, “Monsters University,” will join the festivities as new topiary family members.  On the Future World Walkway
  • Phineas and Ferb topiary:  The popular Disney Channel animated celebs limit their shenanigans to go green for a family photo-op.  Behind Spaceship Earth
  • “Radiator Springs” interactive play zone:  Race car Lightning McQueen and tow truck “Mater” of the Disney-Pixar film “Cars 2″ will be the well-maintained topiary stars of this play area.  On the Test Track Walkway
  • Flower Power Firsts1970s top disco band The Village People (April 19-21) and 1960s singer-songwriter Tommy Roe (May 3-5) bring on the Flower Power beat when they take the concert stage.  At America Gardens Theatre

And a new twist:

  • Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House: Eight fanciful fairy topiaries of Pixie Hollow, including Tinker Bell, Fawn, Vidia and Terrence, take over the Butterfly House this year where hundreds of colorful winged beauties flit to life.  On the Imagination Walkway.

In all, more than 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens, dozens of flower towers and sweeping beds of multi-colored blooms will add floral splendor to the park landscape.  Daily hands-on gardening seminars, and other Festival Center events will offer innovative ideas, design tips and gardening know-how to park guests.  The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.

Jan 13

A Look at the runDisney Pasta in the Park Party Menu Offerings

Pasta in the Park Party disneyAll these runDisney races and I have never had a chance to attend one of the Pasta in the Park Parties. Well last weekend at the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend I made up for lost time!

Pre-Race carb loading…everyone has their own methodologies. Thank goodness runDisney has brought on their own nutrition consultant, Tara Gidas, to steer us in the right direction and they’ve also tried to demystify “where should we eat?” before a runDisney race by offering an alternative…the Pasta in the Park Party.

I must admit that as unstructured as my life and training are, my pre-race fuel has pretty much been consistent. For night races, I usually go for a McDonald’s Southern Style Chicken Sandwich with extra pickles and cheese and an unsweet iced tea.  For morning races…sky’s the limit on dinner the night before. I’ve done Mexican, pizza, pasta and for my last half marathon, a five star meal at Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure. I know lots of runners at Walt Disney World will try and hit up Via Napoli or Il Mullino to get their pasta on.

This dining adventure was shared with some of my fellow running fanatics. I hope that you go check out their sites! But wait until you get through this post first ok? =) (Left to Right) Carrie Burrows <– She lost 200 lbs!!!, Amanda Tinney, Karla Bruning, Karen Karnis, Toni Carey, Andrea Vincent, Ashley Hicks, and Carla Gomes.

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

The Pasta in the Park Party is held inside the World Showplace pavilion which is nestled in between the Canada and UK Pavilions inside Epcot’s World Showcase.  This building is HUGE and is only used now for special events and at this particular party (runDisney has three scheduled throughout Marathon Weekend) the place was packed! I don’t know how they did it…but the lines were short and the food was plentiful.  Here’s a look at the spread…

Mixed Greens with Lite Vinaigrette & Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Herb Balsamic Potato Salad

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Herb Roasted Chicken

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Bowtie Pasta with Grilled Vegetables and Basil Pesto

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Wheat Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

House-made Focaccia Bread with Butter

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Whole Bananas

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Chocolate Brownies

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Ice Water with Lemons and Limes, Lemonade and Fruit Punch

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

There was also a cash bar for those adventurous enough to imbibe…and the guests at the party who weren’t running =)

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon bar

I must admit that as a foodie, when I first saw the buffet I had my reservations on how good it would be. I was pleasantly surprised. The wheat penne pasta was the runaway hit for me! I’d have killed for that marinara sauce recipe. The chicken was also really tasty as was the potato salad.

The pavilion was decorated to the nines and really made the atmosphere feel like a party.

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

Another big draw for this event was the opportunity to have your photo taken with several different Disney characters with little to no wait.

minnie mouse

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

The party atmosphere continued with a live DJ spinning tunes throughout the evening.

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon DJ

Gangnam Style

Pasta in the Park Party disney

We were also treated to a live performance by James Durbin of American Idol fame.

Pasta in the Park Party Disney Marathon

The Pasta in the Park Party is buffet style and food is served from 6:30 – 8:30 pm. Following dinner, guests are escorted to Worldview Plaza for viewing Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at 9:00 pm.  The cost is $47.50 for Adults (ages 10 and up) and $28.35 for Children (ages 3-9). If an adult were to dine at say Via Napoli here would be the breakdown of the same meal: Beverage $3, Salad $7, Entree $26 and dessert $8. That works out to about $44 give or take. With the Pasta in the Park Party you get unlimited food, drinks and entertainment as well as reserved viewing for Illuminations. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.

Have you been to the Pasta in the Park Party before? What was your take on it? I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below.

Special thanks to runDisney for providing complementary admission to the Pasta in the Park Party. I was not required to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Jan 13

What You May Not Know About the Set Up Process for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

walt disney world marathon 2013 finish lineDid you know that runDisney has to apply for a parade permit from Reedy Creek before they can setup on Walt Disney World Resort roadways for a race? Reminds me of a marathon sign I saw once….”Worst Parade Ever!” Though as far as I’m concerned, runDisney puts on the best “parades” ever!

While most of you are packing your bags and double checking that you have enough GU to get you through your Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend race, an army of folks over at runDisney and Track Shack are busy building the nerve center for the largest sporting event in Central Florida.

Today I had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes look at the setup process for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend from Senior Sports Manager at Disney Sports, Michelle Maretti and Doug Heitman, Track Shack Staging Manager.  I must mention at this point that I had no idea how involved Track Shack was from a logistics standpoint at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  Maretti says of the Track Shack team members, “They’re basically cast members without name tags…”

wdw marathon weekend setup

Maretti gave me a look at what I dubbed her ‘runDisney Bible’ which was a packet of 30 some odd pages of highly detailed timelines encompassing every aspect of what it takes to put on the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  It was hard to even wrap my head around the volume of events that have to be perfectly choreographed to ensure that the weekend goes off without a hitch. Timelines for setup are driven by Reedy Creek and there is a specific schedule that is used to manage the event. Michelle said that this year they are actually ahead of themselves.  “My mind is already on 2014″, she said… “We work on it year round.”

walt disney world marathon set upMaretti also explained that the event set up is a committee structure and there are several committees and partners that meet once a week year round for an hour and a half.

Another bit of information…Marathon weekend is always scheduled the weekend before Martin Luther King Day, so depending upon when Martin Luther King Day falls, is where Marathon weekend falls. This critical date determines the amount of days that the team has to set up for the race. 2013 is the only year where runDisney will have this long of a period of time for setup…10 days in total. Disney Company Operations can not let runDisney into Epcot’s Imagine and Wonder parking lots until after the conclusion of the peak Christmas and New Year holiday season.  This means that Maretti and her team can not start setup until January 1st…January 1st at 2 p.m. to be exact.  In 2012, the start of Marathon Weekend races was January 6th, which gave the team merely 5 DAYS to complete set up for an event that draws close to 100,000 athletes and spectators. That’s half the time they were allotted in 2013. To say the team works miracles would be an understatement.

Michelle Maretti runDisney Disney cast memberAnother integral part of the race weekend is what Disney is best known for…the entertainment!  Maretti says, “Entertainment has more set up than anyone and on top of that, they have to come up with the show.”  Entertainment is also involved in making the staging area presentable. They will come in and tell set up where to put in greens packages and the different visual elements to make tent city look ‘guest-friendly’.

When asked about the challenges the planning team faces with runners being in the Disney theme parks during operating hours, she says that Magic Kingdom is the only park that runners do not run in while the park is open. There is a runDisney liason assigned to each park to make sure that plans are in tandem with the course director’s and that liasion knows the paths that the race is going to take within the parks.  They actually set the cones for runDisney on race morning.  They identify where crosswalks are needed and how many cast members are need to staff those locations and they work with entertainment as well.

Though marathon weekend planning is an ongoing year round fluid process, there are still timelines that need to be respected.  Six to five months out runDisney is asking race partners what they require. Doug Heitman figures out what everyone needs and how is he going to make it fit into only 2 of Epcot’s Parking lots.  It’s serious business.

Some changes that the race will see this year…Race Retreat doubled in size over 2012 and its sold out! The Cheer Zone also doubled in size.  The finish line has been shifted ever so slightly over and Heitman also pointed out a new tent for the wheelchair athletes to stow their everyday use chairs in while competing.  Another big change is the exclusion of port-o-potties on the road that connects the staging area to the start corrals. The team made the decision to take these out because during princess marathon weekend the lines for the port-o-lets stretched across the road where runners were trying to walk to get into their corrals.  Rest assured that there will be port-o-lets near the entrance to the corrals and around 500 or so in the Epcot parking lot staging area.

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is no small affair. Hats off to all of the cast members and volunteers who make this event as amazing as it always is!

For more info on Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend visit runDisney.com.


Dec 12

The Kinsey Collection Opens at Epcot in 2013

The Kinsey Collection EpcotThe African-American story of determination, courage, hope, struggle and inspiration will be told through more than 40 pieces of art, artifacts, books, sculptures and documents on display at the Walt Disney World Resort. Previews begin in late February and the official opening will take place March 9, 2013.

At Epcot, the American Adventure pavilion will be home to the Kinsey’s personal treasures of African-American art and history, amassed from their travels to 90 countries and dating back to the 17th century.

The Kinsey Collection is the intersection where art and history meet, a virtual history book opened wide, giving voice to untold stories of accomplishment and contribution. The Kinsey Collection, at the American Heritage Gallery, will be included in Epcot admission.