Fourth of July Limited Time Magic!!!

June 14, 2013 Cheryl 0

Fireworks Poly (1 of 4)I am so excited for this…you can’t even imagine!  I LOVE fireworks, and whole week of them…I am so happy I am going to be there to be able to enjoy this!!!

Here is the scoop:  Guests will have a chance to celebrate the Fourth of July during a week-long celebration at the Walt Disney World Resort as part of Limited Time Magic.

It’s a seven-day patriotic extravaganza as Disney Parks honors America with a Fourth of July celebration like never before. At Magic Kingdom, a 15-minute 360-degree fireworks spectacular rockets into the air every night with ”Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky.” The fireworks spectacular takes place at 9 p.m. on July 3 and 4, and 10 p.m. on July 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.

Guests can also enjoy a patriotic spectacle as Goofy, Donald and Pluto lead a procession down Main Street, U.S.A, before the daily Celebrate a Dream Come True parade at Magic Kingdom. The pre-parade features the Main Street Philharmonic, Citizens of Main Street and Walt Disney’s historic horse-drawn carriage.

Patriotic-themed merchandise and tasty treats inspired by Americana will also be on the menu all week long.

On Independence Day only:

Epcot: Discovery Experiences at American Adventure spotlight American history and heritage.

Guests can meet with Disney characters adorned in patriotic dress. Characters in patriotic dress are on set from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and from 3:30 – 6 p.m. outside near Kidcot.

An afternoon of live entertainment kicks off at 12:30 p.m. in the America Gardens Theatre with the Voices of Liberty Fourth of July concert. This holiday special is a harmonizing partnership of the eight-part, a capella Voices of Liberty, Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps and Disney characters. Showtimes are 12:30, 1:45, and 3 p.m.

The Heartbeat of Freedom, a special tribute following IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth lights up the sky at 10 p.m.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Enjoy a twist on traditional fireworks with the all-new “Rockin’ 4th of July Celebration”. The party begins at the Sorcerer Hat with a DJ at 6 pm.

At 7, 8, 9 and 10 p.m., Mulch, Sweat & Shears will take you on a musical road trip through America. Everything leads up to a special rock ‘n roll fireworks presentation at 10:15 p.m.

Where is the best spot to watch Wishes®?

October 23, 2012 Cheryl 2
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Those of you who know me, or follow this blog, you know that I love fireworks!  At home, I have been known to drive around looking for fireworks, and then stop on the side of the road to watch the show. I plan all of my Disney dining reservations based on the pyrotechnics display I want to see that night…and camp out an hour before the show on Main Street with my ice cream cone in hand waiting like a little kid, giddy with excitement.  So this summer during our vacation at Walt Disney World®, I decided to conduct a little experiment to see where the best spot would be to watch Wishes®!  Here were the contenders: Main Street U.S.A. by the flagpole, the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the viewing deck at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and near the marina the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  I am sure that there are tons of other viewing areas, but unfortunately there were not enough vacation nights to see them all.  Thankfully there is always next time!!  Here are the results of my not-so-scientific-but-oh-so-fun experiment!

Main Street U.S.A.

It is no secret that I love pretty much everything about Main Street – from the architecture, to the popcorn smell, to the shops, the food, the parades, and of course the fireworks.  This to me is the quintessential firework viewing spot…but there is a downside – the crowds.  You have to fight for your spot, and then possibly even have to fight to hold onto your spot.  Parents lift their kids up onto their shoulders and block your view.  People lean over to get a picture and block you view.  People show up at the last minute and stand right in front of you and block your view.  You get the idea -there are a lot of people!  You will also have to deal with all of those same people after the show – on your way back to your hotel.  However, crowds’ aside, watching the colors explode directly over the castle has got to be the best view that there is.  Plus you get to see any castle pre-shows there happen to be, and you don’t miss out on the evening parades.  It is a classic viewing spot, and, with the exception of everyone else enjoying the show with you, you really can’t go wrong if you are on Main Street U.S.A.

Beach at the Polynesian

The beach at the Polynesian Resort is incredibly relaxing, relatively empty (except on holidays), gives the kids something to do while waiting, the Wishes® music is piped in, and there are even spots to grab an adult beverage to enjoy with the show.   Downsides – mosquitoes, sandy shoes and clothes, the distance and angle of the fireworks show, and transportation.  As the Polynesian Resort is located across the lake from the Magic Kingdom, and furthest away from the park, the fireworks do not seem as huge as they do from Main Street.  And, they are not situated directly over the castle – they seem to be going off slightly to the left of it.  That being said, the view of the fireworks being reflected on the water is breathtaking.  Transportation can also be an issue, depending where you are staying.  If you parked at the Transportation and Ticket Center, then all you need to do is walk over and grab a tram and you are ahead of the crowds – so that is a good thing!  If, however, you are staying on property and need to grab a bus back to your hotel, you will need to take either the boat or the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom, and grab transportation there.  You will probably get stuck in the mass exodus, and have to wait for a while to get to your room.


Viewing deck at the Contemporary

There are actually two viewing decks at the Contemporary Resort, but one of them is located off of the California Grill, and you need to have a reservation to get onto the elevator to see the show from there.  The deck I am talking about is off of the main floor.  The entrance is located behind the gift shops the opposite side of the floor from Chef Mickey’s.   From there you can go up the stairs if you want to get a higher view (J went up there to get the pictures), or sit at one of the benches and wait for the show to start.  Upsides to watching the show here – they pipe in the Wishes® music, it isn’t crowded, you are almost over the castle so it offers a very unique view (the fireworks are to the right of the castle this time), and they offer seating.  Downsides – the monorails do not stop just because there are fireworks going on so they can be distracting, the hotel is very close to the parking lot and if any car alarms are set off by the fireworks (as they were that night) it can be very distracting, again the fireworks are not directly over the castle, and transportation can be an issue.  The Contemporary is within walking distance of the bus depot at the Magic Kingdom; however, if you need to get to the Ticket and Transportation Center you will have to ride the Monorail with the rest of the exiting crowd.

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

There are plenty of viewing spots at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, but we chose to stake out ours near the marina at the end of the wing closest to the Magic Kingdom.  It was just us, and one other family watching the show, which made it pretty special – like the show was just for us.  That being said, there was no music playing (maybe there is on the boat launch?) so the show didn’t seem as emotional as it is with the music.  The angle of the fireworks seemed off as well – very far to the left of the castle.  Again, not a big deal to most, but to me, I like to see the fireworks directly over the castle.  The same transportation issues exist as well, which are compounded if you take the monorail, as you will be competing with everyone leaving the Magic Kingdom that were at the first stop.

Final Conclusion

Anywhere you see Wishes® is fantastic, but if it were up to me, I would either pick Main Street if I were already in the park (unless it was a holiday, then even for me the crowds are too much!) or the beach at the Polynesian.  There is just something so relaxing about it and just the thought of watching the fireworks while sitting on the beach that makes me happy.  So now its time for you to weigh in – where is your favorite spot to watch Wishes®?

All I want for Christmas is a hole in one…

August 14, 2012 Cheryl 1
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I had some work to do this morning, so J and T decided to go out for a round of mini golf at Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course.  As the story goes, Santa was out making his deliveries one Christmas Eve and noticed some snow in central Florida.  Landing to investigate, he thought to himself that this would be a good place to build a vacation home for his elves – the only thing missing was a golf course!  His elves couldn’t decide if they liked snow or sand better, so they decided to make two courses – one for each season – and the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course was born!  We have the “Water Parks and More” option on our tickets, so a round of golf before noon was included.  They decided to play on the “winter” side, and although not a very challenging course, they had a great time.  T was a little disappointed that his “Elf on the Shelf” Dan was not there, but I think the water-shooting snowman on hole 13 made up for it!

Dinner tonight was at ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort.  We had been to breakfast here before, but never dinner, and I had heard good things about the meal so I was looking forward to it.  And if you like meat, this dinner does not disappoint.  ‘Ohana means family in Hawaiian, so everyone is a “cousin” and the food is all served family style.  After being greeted by a “cousin” and lead to our table (and a conversation with the Chef regarding allergies) we were brought our first course – a tossed salad mixed with Honey-lime dressing.  It was light with just the right amount of sweetness, and even T (who only ever eats salad with ranch dressing) said it was good!  Next up were pork-fried dumplings and coriander chicken wings – J really liked the dumplings and I couldn’t get enough of the wings.  The sauce was excellent!  After the appetizer round, Cousin Gabe brought us broccoli with green peas, pad Thai noodles (EXCELLENT by the way) and some dipping sauces (peanut, spicy mustard, and sweet-and-sour)…and then came the meat!  Servers walked around with large skewers with marinated sirloin steak, Asian BBQ pork loin, mesquite-grilled chicken, and non-peeled shrimp that had all been prepared over an oak fire.  Think Brazilian Churrascaria meets Polynesian Island…definitely come hungry to this restaurant!!  They also had some more kid-friendly options such as macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers.  And, if you are not already too full, the “main course” as they like to call it is an amazing ‘Ohana bread pudding à la mode with Banana Foster sauce!  There’s nothing bad on this menu!

While all of this eating is going on, they have Hawaiian entertainment in the form of a woman playing the Ukulele, leading a parade and doing the hula with the children, and giving out lei’s.  They even had a “push the coconut with a broom stick” race (I am sure there is a more technical term for it than that!!) that the kids seemed to enjoy!

After dinner we headed down to the beach in front of the hotel to watch the fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle.  The hotel was showing a movie on the beach, and the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show was also going on so there was a lot of noise on the beach, but still relatively empty.  Luckily the storms that blew through this afternoon had passed and the skies were clear for the show.  They piped in the Wishes music, so once the show started all of the other noises faded away and everyone was able to enjoy the display!  We are going to try and watch the fireworks from all of the hotels around the Seven Seas Lagoon, and then I will be doing a compare and contrast ranking at the end.  It’s all for science, but the fireworks junkie in me is really looking forward to all of the testing!!

Dining Review: Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party

July 24, 2012 Cheryl 1
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As the sun begins to set, and the lights come on along Main Street, my thoughts turn to the fireworks that will soon be lighting up the night sky.  Usually at twilight I am getting comfy on the sidewalk somewhere around the Main Street Bakery, but on our last visit to the Magic Kingdom we decided to try something special…the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party.

The event starts about an hour before the fireworks, and takes place along the lower tier of the Noodle Station.  Even though it is a limited seating event, the line to get in starts to form early.  As you wait, Cast Members will check off your reservation and place a special wristband around each member of your party.  Once you enter the party, you are lead to your pre-assigned table, which has your family name on it.  Hopefully you will be lucky enough to get a table up front.  If not, you are allowed to move down to the railing for the show, or even set up a tri-pod as my husband did.  You are not, however, allowed to bring chairs down to watch the display.

If you are a dessert lover, trust me, Disney does not disappoint…definitely come hungry!!  There are three different stations with all kinds of very decadent and very yummy desserts. Some of the goodies you will find are pistachio crème brulee, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecakes, brownies, chocolate mousse, key lime tarts, Italian cannoli, rice crispy treats, fresh pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, and grapes, and my family’s favorite…chocolate covered strawberries.  There is also a coffee and tea beverage station, as well as a station with cool beverages such as lemonade, milk, ice tea, and water.  All of these items are constantly being replenished by Cast Members; so don’t feel like you need to fill your plate the first time…there is plenty available for seconds and thirds!

Once you have your fill of desserts, get ready for the show!  Now, I usually watch Wishes from Main Street, so I was interested in seeing what the show would look like from a different angle.  I personally didn’t think it was as spectacular as seeing the show straight on.  The castle is to the left of you, but instead of going off behind the castle, a lot of the fireworks look like they are to the right of the castle.  Plus, if you are seated in the back of the area, the overhang is too low that you can’t really see if you sit in your seat, so standing at the railing is the best option.  But, not having to fight the crowds or look over anyone else’s shoulder definitely has its advantages…and you gotta love Tinker Bell flying right over your head!!  Where is your favorite fireworks viewing spot?

Planning Tip:

This party is a perennial Disney fan favorite, and although they do take walk-ups on a first-come, first-serve basis,  I highly recommend making advance reservations, which can be made up to 90 days in advance.  Park admission to Magic Kingdom Park is required, and the Disney Dining Plan is not accepted.

“Celebrate America” Disney style!

July 20, 2012 Cheryl 0
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I am a fireworks junkie…let me just put that out there to begin with.  At home, I have been known to drive around looking for fireworks, and then stop on the side of the road to watch the show. I plan all of my Disney dining reservations based on the pyrotechnics display I want to see that night…and camp out an hour before the show on Main Street with my ice cream cone in hand waiting like a little kid, giddy with excitement.  I also love the 4th of July…I get my yearly flag t-shirts in May, and plan out our picnic schedule so that we have enough time to get to the fireworks show.  So last year, when we were planning our yearly trek to see the Mouse, I was so excited to finally celebrate Independence Day at Disney World!

We had the whole thing planned out…Magic Kingdom on the 3rd and Hollywood Studios on the 4th!  Magic Kingdom, which boasts amazing fireworks every night of the year, goes all out on the Fourth, by presenting “Disney’s Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky”.  And they always do a “preview” night on the 3rd, so I figured that we would do that that night before, and then head over to Hollywood Studios for their special show, since they only do fireworks twice a year – on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve.

As you can imagine, I am not the only one who thought celebrating Independence Day in Disney World would be a good idea!  The crowds were overwhelming (although not quite as bad as on New Year’s Eve) and we spent a good part of the day waiting in line.  Luckily we had a dinner reservation at the Plaza Restaurant, so we were able to get out of the heat…and because our waiter gave us the best tip ever – “Instead of watching the fireworks from Main Street with the tens of thousands of other people, head over to the Polynesian Beach and watch them from there.”  This man was brilliant!!

We left the Magic Kingdom and went down to the beach at the Polynesian.  It was crowded, but nothing like Main Street.  We were vacationing with friends, so while my husband set up the tripod for the pictures, my son built sand castles with his buddy.  Everyone relaxed on the beach until the show started.   And when I tell you this was the best firework show I have ever seen, I am not exaggerating.  The music was piped in just as if you were at the Castle, they shot off the fireworks from multiple locations in the park, and it ended with the Patriotic Electric Water Pageant.  Twice the show, a quarter of the crowds, and it honestly felt like the whole display was done just for us.   Plus, we were already one monorail stop ahead of everyone else – so we just made our way over to the transportation center., got on the tram to our car, and we beat the traffic out to our hotel!  Double bonus!

We went ahead with our original plan to go to Hollywood Studios on the 4th.  We spent a very hot and humid day standing in more lines, and by about 7 pm we were all pretty much done.  Being the fireworks junkie that I am, I really wanted to stick it out to see the show, but even I had to concede that waiting around with the crowds for another 3 hours wasn’t worth it.  So we decided to push our luck and make our way over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort again to see if we could make the show there.  The Disney Fairies must have sprinkled a lot of pixie dust on us, because we were able to make it from the Hollywood Studios to the Disney Transportation Center, find a place to park, get a tram, and then walk to the Polynesian in time for the show!  It was a little more crowded this time, but we still got a good spot on the beach, and had time to relax before the show.  And once again…it was breathtaking.   The Water Pageant, the music, the castle, the fireworks, and the way that we actually were able to relax and enjoy the moment when just a few hours earlier we were on the verge of major meltdown…that was probably the most amazing part of all.  I am sorry that I missed the show over the Sorcerer’s Hat, but as great as that might have been, I don’t think it could top Magic Kingdom’s concert in the sky.

Planning Tip:

4th of July week at The Walt Disney Resort is one of the most popular times of the year to go, so expect lots of crowds, lots of time standing in line, and (being that it is Florida in July) lots of sweating.  Usually I would recommend taking a break in the middle of the day, but when the parks are that full there is a chance that they might close to new visitors and you will not be allowed back in.  Remember to build in some time where you and the kids can relax in a shady spot or run through a sprinkler, visit the Baby Care Center, or even strategically schedule a lunch or dinner at an air-conditioned restaurant so the whole family can cool off.