Monday, September 30, 2013

Photo of the Week

I just love the Halloween decorations at Disney World. 
Even the windows on Main Street are filled with pumpkins and ghosts!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom

One of my all-time favorite rides at Disney World is the Haunted Mansion. Located in Liberty Square, the mansion looks over the square from a hill. The atmosphere is just spooky enough to be fun and the cast members are to die for. Each Disney park around the world has a Haunted Mansion ride themed to the area of the park. The exterior of the Mansion in Disney World is styled after the Gothic mansions of the northeast.

The queue for the Haunted Mansion was always fun, but the new interactive queue is wonderful. You approach the mansion through wonderfully Gothic gates, adorned with bats. A horse-drawn hearse, with an invisible horse, has been parked in front of the Mansion, as if waiting for a funeral. As you near the entrance to the Mansion, you have a choice of paths. One leads directly to the Mansion, a good idea if you're in a hurry. The other leads to the cemetery, full of crypts and headstones to play with. I know it sounds kind of morbid, but I love the cemetery! All of the headstones from the old cemetery have been moved to this new area, including the Madame Leota stone. The old headstones, including Leota, are all references to the original Disney Imagineers who created the Haunted Mansion. When you find Leota, be sure to watch her face closely for a slightly creepy surprise.

There are several new busts in the cemetery, each alluding to the death of a member of the family who lived in the Mansion. As you continue on, you'll pass a giant crypt covered in stone instruments. Be sure to touch them as each one changes the music coming from the crypt. At the end of the crypt is an organ keyboard, a Ravenscroft. Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, is the main singer of the classic Disney song "Grim, Grinning Ghosts." Play a few notes on the organ for a soggy surprise. On the other side of the crypt, the instruments have been warped. Touching them will make the music sound strange and off-key. Next up is the grave of Master Gracey, one of the original ghosts. As you round the corner, you will see the massive watery tomb of Captain Culpepper Clyne. Beware touching his dismal grave! The final tomb is that of a poetess who's tomb says "Her plaintive pleas can still be heard 'O Muse, provide the perfect word!'" You can hear her trying out different words as she attempts to complete her final poem. Both sides of her tomb are covered in books that pop in and out and can be pushed. As you pass the back of Captain Clyne's tomb, be sure to peak over the fence and see if you can spot the Bride's ring in the pavement. The ring used to be a fun Disney myth, but when they built the new cemetery section, they added a real ring to the concrete.

The Bride's ring can be difficult to spot.
Upon exiting the cemetery, you will enter the Mansion and a cast member will direct you into the antechamber. The antechamber features a fireplace with a changing portrait on the mantle. When the next door opens, you will move into the dead center of the Stretching Room. Your "Ghost Host" will give you a glimpse of what's to come. the room begins to stretch, revealing the true nature of the portraits and a spooky surprise. The Stretching Room can be rather frightening for young children. The darkness and screams can be quite shocking if you're not expecting it. Bean would always close her eyes and cover her ears in this room until she was about 7 years old.

As you exit the Stretching Room, you will enter a very crowded area that funnels down to single file as you enter your Doombuggy. Be sure to keep hold of your  party as it is easy to become separated in this room. Each Doombuggy can holdup to two adults and one child comfortably. Once safely inside, sit back and enjoy the ride, and be sure to turn off your camera as bright lights frighten the ghosts.

The evil Bride herself
There are 15 rooms in the Haunted Mansion, including a portrait gallery with changing pictures, a library, a room full of MC Escher type stairs, long hallways of creaking doors and spooky eyes, and a funeral parlor. A giant, demonic grandfather clock, with clawed hands and 13 hours, winds backward as you glide by. You pass through Madame Leota's seance room, which I think is one of the best in the Mansion. Leota's head appears in a crystal ball that floats above the table as she conducts her seance. The special effect of her floating head is absolutely fantastic! As you glide past the Ballroom, be on the lookout for hidden Mickeys. You'll find one on the table of the birthday party. In the past, if you rode through with the Pal Mickey doll, he shivered and said something about there being ghosts over by the organ.

After you exit the Ballroom, you'll enter the Attic, home of Constance, the black-widow Bride. This is probably the creepiest part of the ride as Constance seems truly evil with her smirking comments, glowing heart, and magically appearing hatchet. The last room is the most fun: the Cemetery. Here the music changes to "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and the mood is lighter. Keep an eye out for the groundskeeper Dick O'Dell and his frightened dog, and the singing busts. the broken bust is Thurl Ravenscroft. As you exit the cemetery, your Ghost Host will warn you to "Beware of hitchhiking ghosts." There are new hitchhiking ghost effects with several different possibilities. These include a ghost that swaps the heads of the passengers in your Doombuggy. That one is Bean's favorite. Once you've acquired a ghost, you'll see a mini Leota waving and calling out "Hurry Back! Be sure to bring your Death Certificate!"

After exiting your Doombuggy, be sure to take a moment to view the crypts outside to your left. All of Bluebeard's wives have been entombed together, which is rather funny if you know the story. We love the epitaph, "Six of them were faithful, but the seventh did him in!" Just past Bluebeard's tomb is the pet cemetery. Be on the lookout for Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, a reference to a ride that no longer exists at Disney World. And there's a fun new photo opportunity, too. As the epitaph says, "These stately headstones represent two friends lost by accident. Side by Side their heads repose. Where's the rest? No one knows."

The Haunted Mansion is always fun, but some special magic occurs during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. You can have your photo taken near the hearse. After some Disney PhotoPass magic, a ghostly driver will be added to your photo. This is the only time of year that you can get this special photo. Also during the party, one of the ghosts will sit on the lawn near the queue and tell stories of her life and death. It's a fun, spooky twist on Disney storytime.

The Haunted Mansion is a great not-too-spooky ride. With the new interactive queue, it's a great place for a little ghostly fun. And remember, the Haunted Mansion is home to 999 Happy Haunts, but there's always room for one more...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Villains Fabrics at Jo-Ann's

Have you seen the new line of Disney Villain fabrics at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores? It is totally wild and yet an absolute must have for the Villain lover. My sister and I each bought a yard of the two different fabrics that were available at our local store. Apparently, there are five different fabrics, but they are selling out quickly. The online store only has one left at the moment, but they may have more in stock before Halloween. I certainly hope so, because I really want them all!

I love this lavender and gray fabric with each villain separate and a quote from her story. It has images of the Evil Queen, Cruella DeVil, Ursula, and my favorite, Maleficent.

I bought a yard of this gray lace print fabric. Hidden in the lace are tiny Maleficent dragons, the Evil Queen's apples, and Cruella's scissors. I plan to make a trick or treat bag for next year's Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.


This dark purple fabric features Maleficent, the Evil Queen, and Cruella and says "Love to be Bad." The color is gorgeous and I really like the stylized look of the Villains.

The hot pink fabric with purple smoke and lace accents says "Fashionably Bad." It again features Cruella, the Evil Queen, and Maleficent. It's a rather bold background with the Villains in simple, somewhat muted, colors.

The final fabric is my least favorite of the collection. It's rather creepy with each of the Villains faces wearing a bleeding red lipstick and smeary eyeliner. The background is a pale pink and gray damask with the faces of the Evil Queen, Cruella, Ursula, and Maleficent. It is also the only one that it still available on the website. If you think this fabric is a must have, be sure to order soon. It's currently on sale for $5.99 a yard.

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quote of the Week

When hinges creak in doorless chambers 
and strange and frightening
sounds echo through the halls, 
whenever candlelights flicker where
the air is deathly still, 
that is the time when ghosts are present,
practicing their terror with ghoulish delight.
- Haunted Mansion

Monday, September 23, 2013

Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom

My favorite place to eat at the Animal Kingdom is the Flame Tree BBQ. In my opinion, they have the best barbecue of any Disney park. Located on Discovery Island near the bridge to Dinoland, Flame Tree BBQ is open for lunch and dinner.

At Flame Tree, the portions are very generous. If you order one meal and an appetizer, such as the onion rings, it is easily enough food for two to share. I usually get the 1/2 slab of St. Louis ribs, which comes with baked beans and coleslaw. They used to have the biggest and best cornbread muffins I've ever had, but sadly, they aren't always available. However, it's still a great deal at $11.69. It's definitely one of the better dining values at Disney. My family and I have tried about half the menu and loved everything.

Here's an overview of the great food available at Flame Tree:
          $11.69      1/2 Slab St. Louis Ribs, baked beans, and coleslaw
          $10.49      1/2 Chicken (Smoked), baked beans,  and coleslaw
          $9.19        Pork Sandwich and coleslaw
          $15.19      Ribs and Chicken Combo, baked beans, and coleslaw
          $9.19       Smoked Chicken Salad with mixed greens, pinto and garbanzo beans,
                          tortilla chips, and chipotle ranch dressing
          $9.19        Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich on multi-grain bread with
                          cranberry mayo
          $11.79      Jumbo Turkey Leg and coleslaw
          $9.79        Turkey Leg
          $3.99        Onion Ring Basket

The kids meal options start at $5.49 and include:
          Baked Chicken Drumstick, Hot Dog, Chicken Sandwich, or PB&J
          the usual sides - grapes, carrots, yogurt, cookies
          and a drink

There are three different barbecue sauces, which are absolutely fantastic, as well as ketchup and other condiments, available at the condiment cart. The usual Coke products are available here as well as cocoa, coffee, hot tea, Bud Light, Safari Amber, three different wines, and a new drink: Mandarin Orange Vodka Lemonade.

The barbecue sauce from Flame Tree is so popular, that they receive requests for the recipe every day. If you're interested in trying it at home, here's the recipe.

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp mild chili powder
1 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 35 minutes. Store in the refrigerator for two weeks.

The seating areas are open gazebos with lots of tables. Each gazebo has carvings featuring a predator and it's prey, which is rather interesting. Additional seating is available near a pond area that often has birds in it. Disney has a firm policy about not feeding the animals, however, you should know that the birds are unaware of this policy. While eating in one of the gazebo areas, I have had a crane dart in and steal a chicken bone right off my tray faster than I could blink. If your kids are afraid of animals, this may not be the best choice for you, although young Bean thought it was hilarious!

Flame Tree BBQ is a great place for a quick, inexpensive meal. I usually eat there every trip and would definitely recommend it. So if you're looking for fantastic barbecue at Disney World, try Flame Tree BBQ. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Frozen Poster

I love the new Frozen poster with everyone buried in a snowdrift, except for Olaf the Snowman, of course.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom

Sleepy Hollow is a little counter service snack spot located in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. The name and sign with the Headless Horseman come from the classic Washington Irving tale the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Disney made a short and very funny cartoon based on the story that was narrated by Bing Crosby. The building was even designed to look like Irving's home, Sunnyside, in Tarrytown, NY.

Sleepy Hollow has a limited, but delicious, collection of offerings. Most of their items are desserts, which are great for breakfast, and include fantastic waffles. The waffles, which are fairly large, are available with a variety of toppings. You can get powdered sugar, cinnamon, strawberries and whipped cream, or one of three specialty sandwiches: Nutella with fresh fruit, sweet and spicy chicken, or ham, prosciutto, and swiss with tomatoes. I got the chance to try the new sandwiches last fall, and they are divine! Bean and I loved the Nutella waffle, and my dad and sister raved over the ham and swiss one.

Other Sleepy Hollow favorites include funnel cakes with either powdered sugar, cinnamon, or strawberries and whipped cream, ice cream sandwiches, and Coke or root beer floats. My favorite drink is the Liberty Swirl Slush, which is a combination of strawberry and blue raspberry Fanta slushes. They also serve iced coffee plain or as a float in three flavors. In addition to the fancy drinks, they also offer the usual Coke products, coffee, tea, cocoa, juice, milk, and even soy milk. And if you like collectible cups, be sure to get the souvenir stein with Ichabod on one side and the Headless Horseman on the other.

Sleepy Hollow is finally a part of the Disney Dining Plan, but is doesn't include the waffles. The waffle sandwiches are around $7 and the dessert waffles and funnel cakes are between $4.50 and $6. If you are just looking for a small snack or a light meal, I would recommend sharing a waffle or funnel cake, as they are definitely large enough to split. The floats and slushes are about $4.

As you exit with your food, there is a nice, breezy, covered seating area to your right. Sleepy Hollow isn't near any other dining or attraction, so this area is often quiet and fairly empty. It's a great spot to relax without feeling like you're in the middle of everything.

This is my favorite snack stop at the Magic Kingdom any time of year, but especially at Halloween. At Halloween time, Sleepy Hollow sports several themed pumpkins. My favorite has the name Ichabod written on it with the quill pen nearby and is surrounded by fall leaves. Another pumpkin features the Headless Horseman on his rearing steed.

If you're in the mood for a great snack at the Magic Kingdom, give Sleepy Hollow a try. You'll be glad that you did.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Photo of the Week

Lamington Cake from the Australia booth at the 2012 EPCOT Food and Wine Festival. 
Lamington Cake is a chocolate and coconut covered yellow cake. Yum!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Glow With the Show Ears coming to Disney World

I'm so excited about the latest news from the Disney Parks blog: Glow with the Show Ears are coming to Disney World, starting October 15! This date marks the 15th anniversary of Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios. The videos of these fun new ears in use at Disneyland are amazing. The lights synchronize with the lights and music of World of Color at California Adventure. I've been hoping they'd make the jump to Disney World, and now they have.

When they first become available on October 15th, they will work with Fantasmic! By October 19th, they will also be a part of the Wishes fireworks and Celebrate the Magic projection show in the Magic Kingdom. At Christmas, they will become a special part of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights as well as Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season. I can't wait to try them out!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Quote of the Week

Mickey is the symbol of
American hopefulness:
we'll get through this,
we'll whistle through bad times.

- Roy E. Disney

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sneak Peak of Princess Fairytale Hall

The Princess Fairytale Hall will open in the Magic Kingdom on September 18th. This will be the new home of the Princess Meet and Greet. There will be two separate lines: one for Cinderella and one for Rapunzel, each of which will be joined by another Princess. And don't forget, you will be able to get a Fastpass or Fastpass+ for the Princess Fairytale Hall.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

More Thor: The Dark World Posters

Marvel has released two more great posters for Thor: The Dark World. The first is a rather creepy image of the villain, Malekith. The second is a great shot of Thor and Jane Foster in armor.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Free dining still available this fall

Are you planning a trip to Disney World this fall? If so, be sure to take advantage of one of the great offers from the Walt Disney World Resort. There are two offers currently: free dining or up to a 30% discount on select rooms.

Free Dining  is available for select WDW Resort Hotels for stays on the following dates September 29 - October 2, October 18 - November 2, November 11 - 23, and December 12 - 22, 2013. You must purchase a non-discounted 7 day 6 night room and ticket package to be eligible for Free Dining. If you stay at a Value Resort, you will receive the Quick Service Dining Plan while rooms at Moderate or Deluxe Resort hotels will get you the full Dining Plan free. Travel must be booked by September 15, 2013 to take advantage of this offer. And remember, EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival runs September 27 through November 11, so is a great time for Free Dining. My family used this offer last year and saved all of our Snack Credits for the booths at the Food and Wine Festival. It was a great way to save money while trying a ton of fantastic foods.

If you aren't interested in free dining, or the dates don't work for you, consider the up to 30% room rate discount. This discount is available for most nights between September 29 - November 22 and November 30 - December 23, 2013. You can book a room only, or upgrade to a full package with tickets. You can also add one of the Disney Dining Plans at an additional cost. Travel must be booked by September 15, 2013 for travel dates between September 29 - November 9, or by November 3, 2013 for travel dates between November 10 - 22 or November 30 - December 23.

If you need help planning your Disney World vacation or would like a free quote, contact Siera at Destinations in Florida. Siera is an authorized Disney vacation planner who will be glad to help you with all your Orlando vacation planning needs.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Quote of the week

Whatever you do, do it well.
Do it so well that when people see you do it
they will want to come back 
and see you do it again
and they will want to bring others
and show them how well you do what you do.

- Walt Disney