Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The American Idol Expereince in Hollywood Studios

A really fun show in Hollywood Studios is the American Idol Experience (located near the hat and the Great Movie Ride).  Even if you are not a fan of the show, you'll have a great time - and find someone to cheer for.  The show takes place several times a day - with the first one usually around noon.  Shows last about 20 minutes.  The winners from each show then compete during the last show of the day with the winner receiving a "dream ticket" which gets them to the front of the line at any American Idol audition across the country.  And actually, (if you are a fan of the show!) this past season of American Idol had 4 of the top 13 that auditioned were dream ticket winners! an audience member - this is what you can expect:
My kids like to arrive about 30 minutes before the show because they tape messages from the performers' "fans" while you wait.  And my kids are all about getting some screen time. They also like to be there early so they can sit in the front row - as that also gives one the opportunity for more screen time.  Will explain that shortly!

After you are seated, a guy comes out to warm up the crowd (hey - is there a name for that person? I am guessing that "warm-up guy" isn't it!) - gets everyone dancing and moving and then he explains how the voting works. 

And this is the second opportunity for my kids to be on the big screen.  Several times they have been chosen to help with the instructions.

The show itself is a shortened version of American Idol. Complete with Ryan Seacrest like host.  And three judges.  One of which is like Simon Cowell in his snarky remarks to the contestants.  After all the contestants have performed and the judges commented - the audience gets its turn to send the winner to the final show of the day (or if you are at the final show then you are voting on the dream ticket winner). 

So...what about you?  Do you like American Idol?  Have you seen Disney's American Idol experience show?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

England's Red Phone Booths in Epcot's World Showcase

The red phone booth is one of the many iconic images of England - and you can find a set of three of them in Epcot's World Showcase.  It's a must do photo-op!
But those phone booths - they are more than a photo-op - they are an opportunity to spread some Disney magic.  And this is magic that you can spread from home!
All you have to do is call the phone booths and see if someone at Disney answers.  I like to call and wish people a magical day.  Ask them if they have seen any princesses yet.  Or if they have had a chance to grab a beer at the Rose and Crown pub.  
We have these numbers programmed into our cell phones - and it's fun to call while you are there at the parks, too.  Surprise a child playing in the booth with a phone call.
Here are the phone booth numbers:
  • Right Booth: 407 827-9861
  • Left Booth: 407 827-9862
  • Center Booth: 407 827-9863
If you'd like to see more Disney photos around the letter E theme, please check out Deb's Focused on the Magic!

So...what about you?  Have you ever gotten a phone call in the red booth?  Are you going to go and spread some pixie dust?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Ziti Sisters show in EPCOT's Italy

There are some great shows around the world showcase in Epcot.  Like Miyuki in Japan.  Or Serveur Amusant in France.  Or the Dragon acrobats in China.  For my younger daughter, the Ziti Sisters are a can't miss experience.  Because every time we've seen them, she's also managed to become part of the show.

The Ziti sisters are Carmella, Katia, Rosalia, Paulina, and Teresa - and they appear most days for five shows in Epcot's Italy pavillion.  (Be sure to check the times guide as you arrive in the park to get the times for your date.)
 (above photo, © Disney)

Led by the sister on the accordion, the sisters "teach" about high Italian traditions such as music, fashion, dance and art.  And as they teach - they get the entire audience involved.  
Here, they are teaching about music and dance:

And here we have a lesson on art (or as they say - ar-tay!)

The show is great fun - and very funny!  So...what about you?  Do you have a favorite show in Epcot?  Have you ever seen the Ziti sisters?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Liberty Tree Tavern: dining in the Magic Kingdom

The Liberty Tree Tavern is located in Liberty Square - across from the Riverboat and near the Hall of Presidents.  
We visited this restaurant for the first time in May.  And I must admit that in the beginning, I was not that excited about eating here. I had read a few reviews of dinner - and well, as un-American as this might sound, I am not a fan of Thanksgiving type foods.  But.  As I read and researched further, I found that the lunch menu at the Liberty Tree tavern is quite different than the family style Thanksgiving meal at dinner.  There was a menu.  With lots of choices.  And ones that sounded really good.

I really like the theming of this restaurant as well.  It's located in an 18th century colonial style building - and then the dining room is composed of a series of rooms that are patriot themed: Betsy Ross, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, Benjamin Franklin, George and Martha Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.  
And it's really fun when they call you from the waiting area to your table: "Welcome the Harris family from Georgia!"
We were seated in the John Paul Jones section right by a window.  
Do you see those stairs in the above photo?  If I have any quibble at all with this restaurant, it's the bathroom.  The bathroom is up those stairs (I am not sure how they handle accessible needs) - and it's really, really small.  
When you get your drinks, they are in these cute tavern mugs - and they are also available for purchase.

My mom and I decided to split the New England Pot Roast (the tavern keepers favorite).  And it was delicious.  Normally, I am not a big fan of pot roast.  It seems that almost everything made in my slow cooker tastes the same.  Obviously, the Liberty Tree Tavern did not use my slow cookers!  This was absolutely amazing.  The beef was fork tender and melt in your mouth.  And the potatoes with the gravy - I could eat it again right now.  Because we split a meal, we were each brought a plate with our half portions - so this picture is a half portion.
My girls decided to split the Pilgrim's feast.  They do not join me in my feelings for Thanksgiving food.  They thought it was all quite yummy - and even ate their green beans.  Again - this is a half portion on the plate. 
Our lunch was amazing - but what is going to make me go back is the dessert - the Ooey Gooey toffee cake. I wish we had gotten more than one to share!

To see more posts about Disney food and drinks, be sure to check out the blog hop over at Deb's Focused on the magic!

So...what about you?  Have you tried Liberty Tree Tavern?  Do you like Thanksgiving food?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Characterpalooza at Hollywood Studios part 2

At Hollywood Studios there is an unadvertised character meet and greet - it's sort of an insider's secret.  And I am going to tell you how to get in on the action.  What has become known as "Characterpalooza" takes place at the Animation Studios - near the meet and greet for Sorcerer Mickey and the Animation class.  The timing of the event though, well that is a bit tricky.

Characterpalooza is completely tied to the Fantasmic schedule for the evening.

If Fantasmic starts at 6:30 or 7, there will be no Characterpalooza
If Fantasmic starts at 7:30, it will begin at 4:45 and last for about 20 minutes
If Fantasmic starts at 8:00 or later , it usually begins between 4:45 and 4:55 - and can last from 20 minutes to a little over an hour.  (This scenario also holds true on dates when there is no Fantasmic scheduled.)

As for which characters you might find - it's always a surprise! 

When we were there in the Spring, we met:





Mary Poppins:

Chip and Dale:

The interaction with Chip and Dale was fabulous.  Chip asked my older daughter to marry him - or at least to call him later.

And all of the above characters was in about 30 minutes (total time!!).

Another day, my oldest got to meet:

Pinocchio and Gepetto:

Chip and Dale again (no marriage proposals this time):

And Captain Hook with Mr. Smee:

(The above meetings took about 15 minutes total!).

You can check out my previous characterpalooza post to see some other characters we've met.

So...which character would you like to meet at the Characterpalooza??

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom

My very favorite counter service in all of Disney World is the Flame Tree BBQ found in Animal Kingdom Park.  It's located on Discovery Island, right between the bridge to Asia and the entrance to Dino-land.
Why is it my favorite?  Well, there are two main reasons:  Food and Atmosphere.
First - the food.  It is simply delicious.  My favorite thing to get is the pulled pork sandwich.  (You can get all the extra sauce you'd like at the condiment stations that are placed around the seating areas)  It comes with a side of coleslaw.  I am not a fan of any coleslaw, but my husband says it's really good.  Sometimes I'll even split this sandwich with my youngest - it's a pretty big serving.

(by the way, that liquid on my plate?  That is where one of my girls spilled some coke.  We are always stylin' here at Keys to the Magic Travel)
With some menu options, you'll get baked beans as your side.  We usually purchase one side of fries and one side of onion rings to share amongst the four of us.  And those onion rings.  Yum just does not seem to state strongly enough as to how good these are!
Another favorite menu item is the ribs.  I really like that they are smoked with a dry rub and then you add your preferred volume of sauce.  We tend to like ours as is!  (You do get wet wipes with your meal too in case you like lots of sauce.)
 And then sometimes my youngest prefers to get a kids hotdog meal instead of splitting a sandwich with me.  I don't protest too much.
Dessert offerings might be the only thing lacking at the Flame tree.  There are two options - a key lime mousse and a chocolate mousse.  I have never tried the key lime.  But the chocolate is okay.  
I think the bigger issue is that in the heat of this place, no one wants to eat pudding that has been sitting on the table while you finish your bbq.  If you are not on the dining plan, I'd skip dessert entirely and have a Mickey bar later in the day.

Food - check (amazing!)

Atmosphere:  Flame tree has atmosphere in spades.  It's all outdoor seating - but it's really not a problem, even on the warmest of days (well...except for your pudding).  There are quite a few covered pavilions with ceiling fans (and those condiment stations).  The vegetation is lush, and there is seating tucked away along pathways - with lots of shaded areas.    Those pathways wind around to a large pool/fountain with lots of shade and a cool breeze coming off the lake.  There are lots of native birds - like egrets - some of which can be a bit bothersome as they hope for a snack. 

And by that fountain - well, you can get the most amazing view.
So...what about you?  Do you have a favorite counter service restaurant?  What do you like to order at Flame Tree BBQ?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wishes Fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom

Most nights in the Magic Kingdom, there is a firework show before the park closes.  And Disney does put on an amazing display of pyrotechnics.  But there is so much more to the show than bursts of lights.  Disney is actually telling a story with those dazzling flashes in the sky.  
"When stars are born, they possess a gift or two. One of them is this: they have the power to make a wish come true."
And so begins our show - with these words from the Blue Fairy.  Jiminy Cricket is our narrator and he tells us that he didn't believe in wishes.  But some things changed his mind.   We then get to hear the wishes of many Disney characters.  Ariel.  Peter Pan.  Snow White.  There are wishes for adventure.  For love.  And for something magical!  
And this part of the show has one of my favorite things - the flight of Tinkerbell from the castle into Tomorrow land.  It's not an image I'd ever be able to capture - but one that gives me chills every time I am there to experience it!

And then, things take a turn with the Villains taking over - led by the Evil Queen from Snow White.  Naturally, good triumphs over evil and the show closes with this thought, again, from the Blue Fairy:

"We must always believe in our wishes, for they are the magic in the world."
Where can you see Wishes?  Well, you can see it from just about anywhere in the park - but we like to be on Main Street so that we can see the projections on the castle.  And I especially like to see it from the Wishes dessert party so that I don't have to stake out a spot too far ahead of time.  
Another great spot is at the resorts around the lagoon.  The Polynesian is a great one - and especially great if you want to watch the fireworks on a day you aren't going to a park - you can come to the resort and claim a spot on the beach to watch.  At the Contemporary Resort is another great option - either from an amazing Theme park view room or at dinner at the California Grill. 
To see more Magical memory pictures of Disney World, be sure to check out Deb's Focused on the Magic!
So...what about you?  Where is your favorite place to watch Wishes?  Tell me what you "wish" to do next time you are at Disney World!