Epcot at Walt Disney World doesn’t have spring, summer, fall, and winter. It has Festival of the Arts, International Flower & Garden Festival, International Food & Wine Festival, and International Festival of the Holidays. Out of all of Epcot’s well-themed seasons, the Food and Wine Festival is definitely a favorite.
The season is winding down, but you still have until November 12 to check out all of the offerings at the festival. Need help narrowing it down? Here are a few highlights you shouldn’t miss.
Flavors From Fire
There are plenty of incredible food booths at the festival, but we keep coming back to Flavors From Fire. I don’t know what makes it so special. Maybe it’s the flavor. Maybe it’s the fire. But I do know that the Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak can’t be missed.
Eat to the Beat
Earlier this season, we enjoyed MercyMe while chowing down on some delicious food from around the world. Food & Wine Festival’s popular concert series still has three acts left. The best part? Eat to the Beat performances are included with park admission, so there’s no reason not to jam out.
It’s really hard to go wrong with macaroni and cheese in any form, but throw in some pepper bacon and green onions and you’re really doing things right. This is one of our go-to, must-eat, take-all-my-money-and-give-me-the-cheese offerings that we enjoy each year at the festival. So make sure you stop by the Active Eats booth - you won’t want to miss the gooey goodness.
Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend
Some people choose to balance out the festival calories with a nice, early morning 13.1 mile jaunt around Walt Disney World property. I am not one of those people. At least not this year. But like all RunDisney race weekends, it’s so much fun to participate as a runner. Even if you didn’t sign up, you can still be involved by visiting the race weekend expo and checking out exclusive swag, plus cheering runners on as a spectator.
I may not know much about Belgium, but I do know their waffles are on point. Eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert… you simply can’t go wrong. We tried the Belgian Waffle coated in berry compote and whipped cream, but you can also opt for warm chocolate ganache for an even sweeter treat.
Those are our highlights, but what is your favorite part of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival 2018?
Guest Post by Emily Lupfer
Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to explore your own backyard. Still, one of my favorite things about living in Central Florida is breaking away from tried-and-true outings to experience something new. Not because you didn’t get around to it or are waiting for so-and-so to come into town to do it, but because you had no idea it existed.
Earlier this year, a friend surprised me by inviting me to join her for Disney’s Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise. Get it? Ferrytale instead of fairytale? Because it’s on a ferry? We went in the spring, but the cruise has been on hiatus all summer and just started up again this week. This seemed like the perfect time to make sure you know all about it.
This is something I had no idea Disney offered, which kept it a surprise right up until we were standing next to a sign reading “Ferrytale Fireworks Check-in.” My friend allowed me to ask “yes” or “no” questions to try and guess what we were doing, but because the experience isn’t in a park, at a resort, at Disney Springs, or technically at the Ticket and Transportation Center, I couldn’t narrow it down and was left in the dark.
The cruise started with a reception on land with drinks and some hors d'oeuvres. It happened to be my birthday the next day, and an enthusiastic cast member went out of her way to find me a birthday button. Soon, everyone boarded our vessel for the evening and we were off for an evening on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
From there, my goal was to sample all of the signature treats on the cruise. We did just that by filling our plates with plenty of firework-themed desserts like “Red, White and Boom Cupcakes” and “Cherry Bomb Pie Tarts.” All of the tables throughout the ship carried the night’s theme and featured firecracker decorations. A cast member made the rounds, entertaining guests with magic.
I got an extra-special birthday surprise with a personalized tray of treats organized by my friend. It helps to know someone on the inside!
Finally, it was time for the main event: Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After firework show enjoyed from a perfect vantage point. Everyone whipped out their “Mickey Vision” glasses to transform the fireworks into bursts of Mickey Mouse silhouettes. As the fireworks ended, a couple on the cruise got engaged, marking a magical end to the evening.
We were able to experience Ferrytale Fireworks complimentary. It was a great experience, but because of the price point, should probably be saved for a special occasion or celebration.
Let us know what you think! Have you experienced Disney’s Ferrytale Fireworks? Stay tuned to AFloridaAdventure.com for more unique theme park experiences!
Let's be honest here. Who among us doesn't like a frightfully, good scare? Ummm, me! I'm more of a Mickey's Not So Scary than a Halloween Horror or Howl-O-Scream kind of a gal so I sent Bill (hubs) and Emily (daughter) to check these ghoulish events out for me!
At first glance, you might think that both events are the same but Howl-O-Scream and Halloween Horror Nights offer vastly different experiences!
Busch Gardens Insomnia House was a favorite! Emily says, "there is a room inside this house that the walls move and the characters within the house interact with the guests!" A totally different experience than what you might expect.
At Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Night there were a couple of stand-out houses! The Trick 'r Treat house was a favorite because it felt most like Halloween, if that makes sense. I think you need to experience it to fully understand! The Horrors of Blumhouse was interesting because it combines two hit films, Happy Death Days and The First Purge, which makes a nice contrast. It's like you get two houses in one!
Both Halloween Horror Nights and Howl-O-Scream have Scare Zones, but they are slightly different in how they operate. Halloween Horror Nights has specific areas throughout the park as Scare Zones. The borders of these Scare Zones are defined. You walk in and out of them. At Howl-O-Scream, the entire park is a Scare Zone! There are roaming hordes, character interactions and engagement and characters "stalking" you in queue lines and on the rides. Don't be scared when you see your coaster riding buddy is a ghoulish monster!
As if the Magic Kingdom isn’t exciting enough, add in
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and you have a totally awesome, magical experience!
Guests joining in on this separate, ticketed event can enter the Magic Kingdom beginning at 4 pm. An event cast member will place a wristband on your wrist that indicates you will be staying for the party. The actual party, including trick or treating around the park, attraction overlays and themed specialty treats start at 7 pm.
Fear not! There is plenty to do before the party starts! We rode many of our favorite attractions and perused the shops on Main Street, especially Uptown Jewelers. It’s always exciting to see what new Disney Dooney and Bourke handbags have arrived!
A good use of some of that time is to plan your night! Look over the party collateral and decide what your not-so-scary adventure will include!
The Sea Life Aquarium was a fabulous experience and the perfect outing for the kids! So glad the grands were visiting, so they could come along on this adventure!
It was fun to watch the little ones get excited about the sea life; the tanks really held their attention! By-the-way, all the grown-ups were into it also! Sea Life Aquarium is an easy walk through attraction, which lends itself to going at your own pace. If you want to stop and look for a bit, you can!
The 360 degree tunnel is amazing! Sharks, turtles and fish, of all kinds, gracefully swim all around you. It is fascinating to watch!
What We Enjoyed!
Let me say right from the start, I had a great time at Orlando Tree Trek. That's not to say Emily and Bill did not, but their day was spent much higher off the ground than mine!
This was a father, daughter adventure not a father, daughter and mom adventure and I was okay with that! I'll conquer the course next time!
There are four adult courses; you may complete all, a few or just one. As you complete a course, the next one will be longer and more difficult than the one before.
I should say that Emily and Bill did an amazing job; they completed all four courses and were able to stand, walk and speak in complete sentences once they came down out of the tree tops!
This was an amazing adventure; I'll let the pictures complete the story!
Doesn't this photo just scream the seventies? The year was 1972 and this was my first trip to Walt Disney World. I saw Dale in Frontierland, and snagged him for a photo. This was somewhat of a big deal. Not because of the character op but because of the cost of buying, and developing film. I know, right? How archaic!
I remember nothing about this encounter, so I'm thankful for the photo. In case you are scratching your head and thinking to yourself, "this sure doesn't look like Frontierland", well, you would be correct, sort of. Behind me is the train station; don't you just love the decorative rocks lining the sidewalk? In today's Frontierland, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain would be behind me.
I won't tried to explain my fashion sense, it was the seventies for heaven's sake! But I will say, I made this outfit with sewing skills honed during my 4-H years.
Although I don't remember meeting Dale, I do remember how excited I was to visit the Magic Kingdom. Driving up the main entrance road, my head was smooshed against the car window, in the backseat, trying to see something, anything; I especially wanted to get a glimpse of Cinderella's Castle. Little did I know at the time, we were not actually near the Magic Kingdom! Oh my, seems silly now!
When it came to attractions, the steam train was incredibly cool to ride; Small World was amazing and gave us a tune to sing on the two hour car ride home, mom and dad loved that; Cinderella's Castle was the most beautiful sight ever imagined and County Bear Jamboree, oh my, what a hoot! The Haunted Mansion was so scary and the Jungle Cruise with the backside of water and the skippers with their silly jokes, so funny. During the early days of the Magic Kingdom, all the skippers were guys and boy were they cute! The Hall of Presidents was amazing, after all, Lincoln stood up to speak!
Those early guests to the Magic Kingdom, including me, could not help but be in total awe of the place, because the experience was something so different, so surreal, so new, that no one could even imagine such a place. Well, except Walt Disney! This is the stuff that dreams are made of! Hmm, I think that was a line from a Hillary Duff movie!
Gatorland is a must-see attraction; no doubt about it! Our family has visited many times over the years and love it! What makes Gatorland unique, of course, are the residents! I'm not talking just gators, although, there are plenty of them, but the beautiful Florida waterfowl that call Gatorland home.
The boardwalk, which hugs the edge of the breeding marsh, is the perfect place for gator and bird watching. Now, I'm not normally a bird watcher, but you can't help be in awe of these beautiful birds! A perfect place to stop and take in a "bird's-eye-view" of the area is the Observation Tower located on the boardwalk.
For the ultimate view, if you keep your eyes open, is from the thrilling Screamin' Gator Zip Line! This was my first zip line experience and except for that "first step" off the 70 ft. platform, it wasn't so bad! Actually, it is rated one of the top 10 zip lines in Florida! I would definitely do it again, in fact, already have!
A trip to Gatorland is not complete until you see the Gator Jumparoo Show and the Gator Wrestlin' Show! Two classics that never get old!
The gators are mesmerizing to watch, especially the big ones! Sometimes they look like they have this smirk on their face/snout, other times a toothy grin and other times a "I think I'm full look"! I don't know which look is the "I'm extremely hungry so you'd better get out of my way look" so it is best to keep a safe distance. That is, of course, if you are brave enough to experience the Adventure Hour Tour. On this adventure, you get to go behind-the-scenes to feed the gators in the breeding marsh and also have your picture taken with them stalking you from behind! There is always a gator wrangler with you, so no worries!
Funny story: when the kids were 10 - 15 years old, we headed over to Gatorland for a field trip. After we received our tickets and park information we stepped aside to make our plan. With our admission tickets, were 20 smaller tickets that said hot dogs. I got to thinking about them and I guess I had a puzzled look on my face because one of the kids asked what was wrong. I say, with all my mommy smarts working overtime, "this is nice for them to give us hot dogs, but I don't think we can eat 20"! There was a collective groan from the peanut gallery with one of them being so bold as to reply, "um, I think those are for the gators!" Ok, then, moving along! So, don't forget to buy some hot dogs to feed the gators - it's fun! Oh, and if you get hungry, stop by the snack bar, not the gator food hut!
The Adventure Hour experience takes you on a behind - the -scenes tour of the alligator breeding marsh to get up-close to some of the biggest alligators around. Part of the experience is the opportunity to feed these creatures! As you can see by the photo evidence, our daughter offered up her husband to go first!
What We Enjoyed!
Nothing holds a child's attention quite like their favorite Legos! Imagine the family fun you will enjoy, as you experience the ultimate Lego adventure that is, Legoland Florida! With our first visit to Legoland just around the corner, I was excited that the grands would be here visiting. I knew they would just love the place and they did! Although there was so much to see and do, with a lot of rides and interactive exhibits for both the girls to enjoy, I think they were just below the age for optimum engagement of everything in the park. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty, I mean plenty of things to enjoy with them! When little ones are exhausted and just can't do one more thing, it has been an extraordinary day!
Who would have thought that a 3 year could drive? She loved taking control and experience this pint-sized driving school, located in Lego City, for herself!
Little bit was not old enough to take to the open road at the Ford Jr. Driving School in Lego City, but she had fun pretending, in this kid-size Lego car!
Fun ride on the Duplo Tractor train, with mom, in Duplo Valley. The Duplo dog has definitely caught the attention of the littlest grand!
I just couldn't resist! Life imitating art!
First roller coaster ride for the three year old. That's her and her mom in the front car with their arms in the air! Oh what fun!
The coolest attraction was the new Lego Ninjago The Ride, in Lego Ninjago World. Little bit and I didn't wear the 3-D glasses but we all enjoyed the action! This is definitely a must-see attraction!
Entering Lego Ninjago World!
What We Enjoyed!
It's date night, and the pre-planning conversation goes something like this; "what do you want to do honey", oh, "I don't care, what do you want to do? What are you thinking? What do you feel like eating?". Anyone else have the same conversation?
Fortunately, we live in Central Florida where there is no shortage of things to do and places to eat!
One of my favorite places to go, for a date night with the hubs, is Disney Springs. Craving a burger, we head over to D-Luxe Burger located in Town Center.
We did pass by the Disney Food Trucks in Exposition Park, which started me to rethink the burger choice but decided to save that option for next time, because you know, there will be a next time!
When we arrived at D-Luxe, it was obvious that we weren't the only ones looking to enjoy a great burger! I don't know about you, but sometimes the best part of the "whole line
experience" is finding out where your line mates are visiting from.
Our "new" line friends were visiting from Michigan; a sweet, young family with three little ones. The mom was trying to get the attention of others, in the back of the line, so she could order for them. I told her it would be fine for them to join her in line, we didn't mind.
By the time her party was all together, she was organizing her three adult sisters, and their husbands, with each family unit having 3 or 4 kids and then their mom. Oh boy, what a time they were having!
Striking up a conversation, I learned they have spent five days at Walt Disney World and are now getting ready for a 7 day cruise! I was exhausted just listening! Love their spirit of adventure!
Stepping up to order, we noticed that D-Luxe has added a new menu option; Duo meals! There are three to choose from but you will have to ask for them. The information is on the scrolling monitors in the queue line, not on the posted menu overhead.
We opted for the Duo Premium, which included the classic cheeseburger and then a choice of any other burger, a fry to share and two drinks. Price wise, it works out to getting your drinks for free! Who doesn't love a deal?
Of course the burgers are wonderful, but I love the whole theme and "history" of the restaurant; cozy, with a "sitting on your southern porch kind of a feel"!
Speaking of porches, a serendipitous moment presented itself as we were leaving the restaurant. We snag a couple of rocking chairs on the back porch of the Town Center Guest Relations building, propped our feet up and spent time listening to the group Right-On-Key, while enjoying the beautiful weather and gorgeous sunset!
With a cooler temperature and a light breeze, it was the perfect evening to stroll through Disney Springs - you never know what you might see!
A must-stop for me, each time I go, is the Marketplace Co-Op. The Co-Op always has something new; they like to switch things up in there! This particular night, their new store, The Dress Shop on Cherry Tree Lane was having its grand opening. This is a delightful shop that features dresses perfect for Dapper Days! All the dresses are made out of fabrics that are Disney inspired! Each dress has its own set of accessories - so adorable!
For those who do not know, Dapper Days is an unofficial event held twice a year at both WDW and Disneyland. Guests dress up in their finest classic vintage outfits, usually reminiscent of the 1940's - 1950's! Justin J, the creator of Dapper Day, was on hand for a meet and greet!
Disney Springs never disappoints; date night was a success! Except, what happened to the dessert portion of the night? Sprinkles? Amorette's Patisserie? Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC? Ghrardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop? Vivoli il Gelato? That will just have to wait until next time!
What We Enjoyed!
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