Monday, October 27, 2014

Bat Day at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Have you ever spent Halloween in the parks at Walt Disney World? Surprisingly, it can be a great way to spend the spooky holiday. While I'm sure most people would be inclined to head to the Magic Kingdom and Mickey 's Not So Scary Halloween Party, there is a much less expensive alternative to be found in Disney's Animal Kingdom: Bat Day.

At the Conservation Station, Halloween is Bat Day. Last year, they had at least half a dozen activities aimed at teaching kids more about bats. (And don't worry, adults can participate, too.) Our first activity was making bay masks. There were five different mask printouts to color and cut out. They also had a lifesize silhouette of a bat with its wings extended. Kids could kneal in front of it and hold out their arms to see how they measure up to the wingspan. Another station involved walking into a "cave" filled with paper bats. You had to use a flashlight to count the different species and report back how many you found of each. Next, we learned about several forms of enrichment used by cast members to keep the bats entertained. We even tried to lift a bucket of candy using only our pinkies to pull up each link of a chain. That was a lot more difficult than you'd think. We also talked with the bat keepers about how to help bats flourish at home, from reducing the use of pesticides to building bat homes. They also gave us magnets, temporary tattoos, and stickers with photos and facts about bats. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.


For a little more animal fun, on October 31, all of the animals receive pumpkins as part of their enrichment program. We enjoyed watching the tortoises trying to eat the giant pumpkins.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

13 Nights of Halloween on ABC Family


Tonight is the first night of ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween. It looks like a pretty good lineup. Which movies will you be watching?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Good Witch's Wonder

Cassie Nightingale is back for a seventh film with an all new mystery to solve. Her stepson Brandon and his fiancee Tara have suddenly decided to rush their wedding, leaving Cassie only days to plan it. Martha has been elected mayor of Middleton and has pushed Caddie into running a silent auction to raise money for the Middleton Botanical Gardens. Cassie meets a new arrival to Middleton and immediately hires her to help run the Bell, Book & Candle. However, Audrey may be hiding something. When donations for the auction turn up missing, it's up to Cassie, with a little help from her husband Jake, the local Chief of Police, to solve the mystery and set everything to rights.

I love the way they have kept so many of the characters from the previous stories as well as introducing new ones along the way. The kids have grown up and the family has grown closer together, adding new members with every story. These are some of my favorite movies, and my entire family loves watching them together. The Good Witch's Wonder premieres Saturday, October 25 at 9/8c.

In case you missed one of the movies, here's are the titles (and my reviews) in order:

The Good Witch
The Good Witch's Garden
The Good Witch's Gift
The Good Witch's Family
The Good Witch's Charm
The Good Witch's Destiny
The Good Witch's Wonder

Monday, October 13, 2014

Phineas and Ferb: Night of the Living Pharmacists

Have you seen the latest Phineas and Ferb Halloween episode? It's absolutely hilarious! For once, it appears that Doof's inator has been successful. He's finally gotten his brother Roger out of his way, but with unforeseen consequences. The Repulse-inator has turned Roger into the most repulsive thing possible: a zombie clone of Doof himself. Unfortunately, it also allows him to infect everyone around him, making "Lots of me!" Doofenshmirtz schemes always remind me of Pinky and the Brain; they rarely work, and when they do, he's still unhappy with the results. This is no exception; Doof loves the idea of "an army of me", but the zombie clones don't really care for him, throwing him out of his own building, saying "Less of me!"

As usual, Phineas and Ferb and the gang must save the world. They come up with a plan to protect themselves from the Doof zombies (crazy suits made of salvaged rubber) and try to find Isabella, who has become separated from the group, causing Phineas to panic. Although they don't see him, Agent P is protecting the group, drawing away the zombies and making sure that they can complete their mission. Eventually, they find Isabella, who once again tries to tell Phineas about her feelings for him, but is thwarted by memory loss, as usual. Of course they save the world (or at least Danville) and everyone is changed back to normal.

I loved this episode of Phineas and Ferb. It had a million zombie jokes, and definitely poked a bit of fun at the Resident Evil franchise. I love that Phineas and Ferb episodes aren't just aimed at kids. There are definitely several zombie movie jokes that will be over most kids heads, but that just makes it more fun to watch as a family. If you missed it the first time, be sure to catch one of the replays; the next one is on Sunday, October 19 at 11am on DisneyXD. Or watch it anytime online at WatchDisneyXD.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trick or Treating at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

My favorite time of year to go to Disney World is in the fall. I absolutely adore going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. And one of the best parts of the Party is the Trick or Treating. Last year, Disney handed out a whopping 215 tons of candy at the parties.

When you check in for the party, at the Rose Garden or the gate, you are handed your party wristbands, a map, and a small, gift-bag sized trick or treat bag. In the past, the bag has advertised the latest Disney movies, such as TinkerBell or Wall-E. The bags are easy to carry and fairly sturdy, however, if your child has a favorite bag or bucket they'd prefer, that's perfectly okay.

There are several Trick or Treat Trails set up around the Magic Kingdom. The Trails, as well as additional candy stops, are marked on the party map. The first two years that I attended the party, the Trails were Alice in Wonderland themed, with Cast Members dressed as playing cards handing out the candy. Along the Trails, we got a surprise meeting with the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit. This past year, there were new trails, including one at Splash Mountain. The candy distribution is generous and we've found the Cast Members to be very friendly and in the spirit of Halloween. Most Cast Members will give each person a large handful of candy at each stop along the trail. Some Cast Members will wait for the kids to say "Trick or Treat" before handing out candy, and you should remember to say "Thank you!" too.


A surprise meeting with the Queen of Hearts
Disney is very generous with the candy that they hand out during MNSSHP. The candy varies, but is usually a good mix of popular varieties including Butterfinger, Hersheys, Skittles, Twix, Laffy Taffy, Heath Bars, Smarties, Nestle Crunch, Reese's peanut butter cups, Tootsie Rolls, Twizzlers, and more. In the past, there were also small boxes of raisins for a healthy option and also little extras that were handed out at some stops in lieu of candy. One year, we got packs of Winnie the Pooh Halloween memory cards. Another year, we got Jack Skellington stencils that were made of a nice sturdy plastic. Last year, at the Jungle Cruise stop, you could even get bananas instead of candy. One of our favorite treats was the Jake and the Neverland Pirates fruit snacks. And Disney has also added several locations where you can trade in your candy for healthier alternatives, including sugar-free, allergen-free, and non-candy options.

You never know what you might find on the Trick or Treat Trails. In previous years, near the Haunted Mansion, was a trail that led down to the Riverboat landing. A ghostly ship's captain bearing a lamp haunted a fog-enshrouded area at the bottom of the stairs. Last year, Disney added a new Riverboat stop that was less spooky and lots of fun: a Mardi Gras party from the Princess and the Frog.

Our giant haul of candy!

The Trick or Treat Trails are a great way to pass the time while waiting for the Boo to You parades or dance parties to start, or walking from one area of the park to another. We usually use our small bags while walking the trails, but dump the candy into a single backpack when it becomes too much to easily carry or when going on rides. The Trails are rarely busy if you attend a party in September or even early October. We haven't ususally had to wait for more than one group to finish before getting our candy or having a chance to interact with the characters. We really enjoyed the unexpectedly calm pace at a park that is often quite frenetic.

At the end of the night, don't forget to get your bag topped off as you exit the gate. In 2009, the top of candy was giant Ghiradelli caramel filled chocolate bars. And each of us got six! Last year, it was individually wrapped Peeps in Halloween colors. So if you're planning to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party, be sure to make time for Trick or Treating. It's definitely worth it!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Boo to You Parade at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party





In my opinion, the Boo to You Parade at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is the best parade at Disney World. It's a great opportunity to see many rare Disney characters as well as several classic characters in Halloween costumes. My niece's favorite part of the parade is the Headless Horseman who rides through before the parade starts. We've enjoyed watching the old Disney Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as narrated by Bing Crosby, for years. As a result, we always look forward to seeing the Headless Horseman, although my niece was terribly disappointed to discover that he doesn't give autographs!


After the Horseman, the music begins and the floats make their way through Frontierland toward Main Street. The music is ridiculously catchy! You'll find yourself humming it for days after watching the parade. The parade begins with many walking characters who carry fancy Halloween masks. The characters dance to the music, but also wave to the children in the audience and high-five them as well.
The first float has Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy in their Halloween finery, riding in a decorated gazebo.
Next is a large tree from the Hundred Acre Woods with Winnie the Pooh and friends in their Halloween costumes. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys dance and play their way through the parade with Wendy. They are followed by Captain Hook and Mr Smee on the Jolly Roger and an enormous Tick-Tock Croc.
The next group is pirates, including Captain Barbossa and Captain Jack Sparrow high up on a treasure covered cliff.
Now we've come to my favorite part of the parade: the Haunted Mansion characters. Fog covers the ground as the Caretaker, Dick O'Dell, leads his frightened dog through the mist. Ghostly ballroom dancers glide down the parade route followed by the Hitchhiking Ghosts standing on the steps of the Haunted Mansion. The dancers are not to be missed. They are eerie and beautiful at the same time.
The gravediggers are also spectacular and do an amazing dance with shovels, including a move where they run the shovels along the ground and send up sparks. The next group includes characters from the early days of Disney and includes Horace Horsecollar, a group of cowboy dancer, and the Country Bears singing and playing on a float.
Brer Bear and Brer Fox join Chip and Dale in Western wear to escort several country girls down the parade, dancing as they go. Clara Cluck follows them in a giant barn.
Next up is a pumpkin-headed character on a large mirrored ball that spins and weaves through the parade.
The villains follow, complete with their own skeleton band, and include the Queen of Heart, Cruella DeVil, the Evil Queen, the Sheriff of Nottingham, the Big Bad Wolf, Dr. Facilier,  and Jafar and Maleficent on a castle wall with a full size Chernabog peering over the top and often Ursula on the back. Shenzi, Bonzai, and Ed round out the villains and are followed by a candy corn waving flag line. Pluto and Goofy, riding in candy filled trucks, are the last to pass, with helpers who hand out candy to the children, ending the parade.
You'll have two chances to watch the parade during the party. If you have young children who may not be able to stay until the end of the party, I would recommend watching the earlier parade. The first parade is at 8:15 pm and the second parade is at 10:30 pm. I have watched the parade from several different locations, but would recommend finding a spot in Frontierland. The area between the Country Bear Jamboree and the Frontierland turkey leg cart, facing the Rivers of America is my favorite spot. It's usually not as crowded as Main Street and the lighting is fantastic for taking photos.

The Boo to You Parade may change slightly from year to year and may include different characters, but it's always worth taking the time to watch. Be sure to pick a spot about 20-30 minutes before the start of the parade to get the best seats and remember to bring glow sticks from home. They sell them at Disney and kids always want them, but they are far too expensive. The parade lasts about 15 minutes and may have a few moments that are too scary for young children, such as the Haunted Mansion characters and villains. However, this parade is definitely one to watch.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Movies

It's October, so it must be time to dust off the movies and begin A Halloween marathon. I know I'll be re-watching all of my favorites as well as trying to watch every episode of Buffy,  and maybe even all of Angel,  too, although that me be a bit too ambitious. If you still need a few ideas for movies to fill in your Halloween line-up, be sure to check out my favorites.

Halloween Movies for Kids Part 1
Halloween Movies for Kids Part 2
Halloween Movies for Kids Part 3
More Halloween Movies for Kids
Even More Halloween Movies for Kids