Always try new things at Disney

My husband and I are jetting off to Orlando tomorrow for our Disney anniversary trip, or disneyversary. We will have been married for a year Sunday, and we are excited about celebrating at our favorite place. 

  
I’ve started a new tradition when I go to Disney. I strive to try something new every time I go. What’s new for this trip? Check out my list below. 

  1. Backstage Magic Tour – For the first time in forever, I am going behind the scenes at all four WDW parks via the Backstage Magic Tour. I can barely contain my excitement. I’ll write a full review after my trip! 
  2. Star Wars Galectic Breakfast – On our actual anniversary, we are dining with the Star Wars characters! This will be my fourth Star Wars Weekend and my husband’s second.   
  3. Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party – I enjoyed the Epcot Illuminations Sparkling Dessert party (below) on my bachelorette trip last year. We’re looking forward to an up-close view of Wishes with yummy desserts.  
  4. Disney Fine Art Photography Session – Since we are celebrating a momentous occasion, we booked a mini photo session with Disney Fine Art Photography. I’ll share the pictures once we get them. Hint on the photo location: it’s the grandest resort of all. 
  5. Chefs de France – We’ve never eaten at the Frenvh restaurant in Epcot. I always thought I was too picky of an eater for it, until I found out they have grown-up macaroni and cheese as an entree. Yum! 

In addition to these planned novelties, we will be sure to engage in new and spontaneous adventures, too. Be sure to follow along with my trip on Instagram, @tarabullburton. 

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What do I wear for Star Wars Weekends? Her Universe, of course.

Star Wars Weekends, select weekend events in May and June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrating the best series in the galaxy, are underway. I’ll be traveling at lightspeed next weekend to catch the last weekend of SWW2015. This will be my fourth Star Wars Weekend. To catch you up if you’ve never been, Star Wars Weekends feature meet and greets with the Star Wars characters (the only time of the year you can see them… for now), special events with actors from the Star Wars universe (like a martial arts demo with Ray Parks aka Darth Maul), special Star Wars merchandise and snacks, Star Wars fireworks, and more. It’s not a trap!

Star Wars Weekends 2012
Star Wars Weekends 2012 with my Dad
Catching an Ewok while exiting Star Tours in 2013
Catching an Ewok while exiting Star Tours in 2013
Star Wars Weekends 2014 aka the best bachelorette trip ever
Star Wars Weekends 2014 aka the best bachelorette trip ever

At SWW2014, I discovered Her Universe, a clothing brand developed by actress Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and new series Star Wars Rebels. Her Universe offers clothing to celebrate geekdom in a cute and fashionable way. You can purchase Her Universe merchandise on their website, ThinkGeek, Hot Topic, and at Star Wars Weekends (hello Darth’s Mall).

But, I am faced with a dilemma. Since I have acquired four Her Universe dresses in the past year, I don’t know what I will wear to SWW2015. My options with outfit details are below. Help me, blog readers. You’re my only hope.

Blog 1

Dress: Her Universe’s Bad Guys Heart Dress, $45

Ears: Disney Store, $21.95

Shoes: Target (similar), $12

Blog 2

Dress: Her Universe Darth Vader Japanese Dress, $60

Flower Crown: My piece is from a local craft fair. H&M (similar), $12.95

Shoes: Toms (My metallics are pink, but that color is no longer available for adults), $54

Blog 3Dress: Her Universe A New Hope Dress (no longer available)

Headband: World Market, $9.99

Shoes: Sam Edelman, $53.99 on Ebay

Blog 4Dress: Her Universe Darth Vader Knit Pattern Dress, $40

Ears: Disney Store, $13.95

Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell (Similar), $101

Obviously, I’m at a loss.

If you love cool Star Wars pictures and cute, geeky clothes, be sure to follow Her Universe on Instagram and Twitter and Like them on Facebook. They’re not just limited to Jedis and Siths, with brands including Star Trek, Marvel, Doctor Who and Transformers. Want to see how other people style Her Universe pieces? Search #FlauntYourWorld.

Orlando Theme Parks Halloween Roundup: Bunny Slopes Edition

Traveling to the Orlando area for a spooky vacation? From pee-your-pants frights at Universal Orlando to slightly spooky fun at Walt Disney World, there’s something for every witch and goblin.

In this roundup, I’ll discuss the less-scary Halloween time options. These options are great for families with small children or adults who still wear their scared-y pants proudly. (I also avoid seeing horror movies in theatres and think way too deeply about the possibilities of Jason or Ghost Face attacking me)

If you’re ready for fright, don’t worry. Another roundup will come soon, featuring more haunting options.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Photo from Disney.com
Photo from Disney.com

The name says it all. This not-so-scary event allows guests of all ages to trick-or-treat in the Happiest Place on Earth, Disney’s Magic Kingdom. See characters in their Halloween costumes and view a Halloween-theme Wishes fireworks show and Halloween parade. The Disney Villains also get a piece of the spotlight with their own castle show.

Be sure to visit Frontierland, where you may see some Disney classics transformed for All Hallow’s Eve. The Dapper Dans, a quartet usually seen along Main Street, U.S.A., are here as a quartet of cowboy ghosts.

Dates

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  • Tickets: Start at $62. Remember, this is a separately ticketed event, so Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is not included in your regular Disney ticket price. You can save on select nights by purchasing tickets in advance. 
  • Attractions: Select attractions are open during the event, including popular thrill-style rides such as Seven Dwarve’s Mine Train, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. Of course, the Haunted Mansion will be open, and there’s “always room for one more.”
  • Costumes: Costumes are highly encouraged for this event. Although only guests ages 9 and younger can wear costumes to Magic Kingdom on a normal day, guests of all ages can wear costumes to this event. There are a few costume rules, so be sure to check before purchasing. 

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular 

Photo from SeaWorldParks.com

SeaWorld transforms its event space around Bayside stadium into an underwater-inspired Halloween party during weekends in October. This is not a separately ticketed event, and admission is included in regular park admission. The event consists of trick-or-treating, Halloween crafts, and character meet-and-greets.  Check out some of the sweets that will be offered at 2014’s Halloween Spooktacular.

Remember to stop by Penelope’s Party Zone, where bubbles and a DJ create a nonstop Halloween dance party.

  • Tickets: This event is included in SeaWorld’s park admission. To buy SeaWorld tickets, click here.
  • Attractions: All attractions are open during this event, as it occurs during regular park hours.
  • Costumes: Costumes are encouraged, but not required.
  • Dates: Weekends in October

Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat

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Legoland, located in nearby Winter Haven (about an hour from Orlando), offers Halloween fun for Lego fans, specifically targeted children ages 1-12. Kids can help build a ghost model out of Legos. The event also offers trick-or-treating with six different treat stations. Lego Halloween characters will be available for photo opportunities, along with the largest Lego pumpkin in the world.

The Lego Scary Scavenger Hunt in Miniland allows families to team up to find minifigures hidden throughout Miniland USA. Lego Ghosts will also be part of the scavenger hunt, with each ghost bearing a letter. Kids will have to use the letters to unscramble a secret word. They can submit their answers to legoland.com.

  • Tickets: This event is included with daily admission to Legoland Florida. To buy a Legoland Florida ticket, click here.
  • Attractions: All attractions are open during this event, as it occurs during regular park hours.
  • Costumes: Costumes are encouraged, and there are costume contests for three age groups.
    • 3 p.m. – 0-3 years
    • 4 p.m. – 4-8 years
    • 5 p.m. – 9-12 years
  • Dates: Brick-0r-Treat takes place on weekends in October. The Miniland Dance Party only occurs on Saturdays.

Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas

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Do you want something different from a strictly theme park experience? Check out Disney Cruise Line’s Halloween on the High Seas. This special event is included in the cruise price and is offered fleet wide. For more information, click here. 

Spring into Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

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Photo from Disney.com

Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, a springtime special event focusing on the flora and fauna of the park, is underway. You can enjoy this festival, included in your park admission, until May 18, 2014. The festival begins in early March (March 5 of this year).

Topiaries and Gardens

Epcot has grand topiaries throughout the year, featuring favorites like Lady and the Tramp, Mickey and Minnie and Phineas and Ferb. Disney floral artists create topiaries exclusively for the Flower and Garden Festival every year. Be sure to check out the display at the entrance of Future World, showcasing Goofy, Donald and Daisy and their love of Spring.

Photo from D23.com
Photo from D23.com

I’m most excited about the new garden area, Mike and Sulley’s Monstrous Garden. Located in Future World near Innoventions, this play area features James P. Sullivan and Wazowski with one I.

Are you a Frozen fan? Be on the lookout for a troll topiary in the Norway pavilion in World Showcase.

Festival Center

My mom and I outside Festival Center in 2013.
My mom and I outside Festival Center in 2013.

Festival Center, located in Future World, is the hub of the event. With meet and greets and sessions led by HGTV stars, local vendors and exhibits on how Disney garden artists create the magic, it’s a farmer’s market with flair. Many of the local vendors offer free samples, such as seeds and gardening supplies. Even if you’re not a gardener, I recommend stopping by.

Meet and Greets:

  • April 25-28: David Bromstad
  • May 2-4: Chip Wade
  • May 9-11: Genevieve Gorder
  • May 16-18: Allison Victoria

Food

No Epcot festival is complete without seasonal treats (the Food and Wine Festival and Christmas Around the World both offer seasonal dishes throught the park).

  • Florida Fresh: Located near the Germany pavilion, this station highlights Florida produce, such as watermelon and citrus fruits. Try a refreshing watermelon salad or dive into adventure with a kumquat pie. Fresh lemonade and local Florida wines are also served here.
  • Jardin de Fiestas: Near the Mexico pavilion, this is the perfect stop for tapas, small Spanish appetizers packed with flavor. Try a mushroom and cheese quesadilla or chocolate flan for a sweet treat. Mexican libations, such as Mexican white sangria, margaritas and Mexican beer are also available.
  • Buttercup Cottage: This cutely named spot is located in the United Kingdom pavilion. With English-themed treats like potatoes, cheese biscuits and lemon scones, it’s a place fit for Mary Poppins. Chilled varieties of Twining’s tea are offered to quench your thirst with your pinky out.

Music

Concerts take place throughout the festival at the amphitheater in the America pavilion. Arrive early if you would like a seat. You will be able to hear the concert if you don’t nab a spot, but you won’t be able to see. I recommend arriving at least three hours early for a big act.

Upcoming concerts

  • April 25-27: Herman’s Hermitts Starring Peter Noone
  • May 2-4: Starship featuring Mickey Thomas
  • May 9-11: Chubby Checker and the Wildcats
  • May 16-18: Alan Parson’s Live Project

I haven’t been to a Disney festival that I haven’t enjoyed, but this is by far the most beautiful festival they host. You can also enjoy milder temperatures (mild for Florida) during this time.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Summer Nights

From June 22 to Aug. 11, SeaWorld Orlando stays up late for Summer Nights. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In addition to longer hours alongside sharks and sea turtles, Summer Nights also hosts two nighttime shows, Shamu Rocks and SeaLions Tonite. Show times vary by day, so check the show schedule to make sure you don’t miss a beat. During the week, each show is usually performed once, but multiple times are available on the weekends.

Shamu Rocks

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Photo from SeaWorld.com

Shamu Rocks is the daytime Shamu show, One Ocean, set to pop rock music. Don’t expect a surge of AC/DC and Aerosmith, though. The soundtrack incorporates more of a pop vibe with a few rock and Latin hits. Lighting adds a mysterious feel to the show, as during the daytime it’s easy to see what the orcas are about to do. If you have limited time during your stay, I would recommend only watching One Ocean or Shamu Rocks, since the shows are similar. Though Shamu Stadium is large, it fills up quickly. For a good seat, you need to arrive about 30 minutes before showtime. You can catch a seat with an obstructed view about 10-15 minutes before. Remember that the lower bowl of Shamu Stadium makes up the Soak Zone, so if you don’t want to get splashed by a school bus-sized killer whale, it’s best to grab a higher seat.

Sea Lions Tonite

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Photo from SeaWorld.com

Sea Lions Tonite is a comedy show starring Clyde and Seamore, SeaWorld’s star pinnipeds. The show parodies pop culture and SeaWorld culture. Clyde and Seamore spend a day at SeaWorld with their trainers, and they perform their own versions of popular shows like Blue Horizons, Allure: the Call of the Ocean, and even Shamu in One Ocean. Be sure to experience all of SeaWorld’s shows before seeing Sea Lions Tonite so none of the jokes are missed. The later in the summer you visit, the more tricks you’ll see. The sea lions, otter and walrus develop new skills as the summer progresses. Definitely arrive early, at least 30 minutes, to grab a close seat. You also don’t want to miss the pre-show featuring the hilarious pirate mimes. Be warned: if you arrive late, a mime will make fun of you.

If you can only catch one show at Summer Nights, I recommend Sea Lions Tonite. With hilarious jokes, upbeat music and furry creatures with fins, it’s a nonstop party. Also enjoy shorter lines at attractions like Journey to Atlantis, Kraken and Manta during the late hours.