One of the most beautiful times to visit Walt Disney World is during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Epcot explodes with color and it is a pleasure to just stroll around the park taking in all of the scenery.
During the event, Disney offers special gardening seminars, exhibits, a fun concert series ("Garden Rocks") and the wonderful Outdoor Kitchens… and it’s all included in your Epcot admission. This year the festival is being held from March 4 – May 17th.
If you have a green thumb (or aspire to have a green thumb) you will love this time of year at Epcot. I personally can’t grow anything. I have tried and failed, but even though gardening isn’t my favorite passtime, I still enjoy walking around Epcot during the festival. The flower displays are gorgeous and I absolutely love Disney topiaries.
Topiaries are shaped bushes or hedges that are trimmed into a decorative shape. I remember taking a “behind the scenes” tour at Walt Disney World when I was young (April 1986 to be exact!) and they took the group to the nursery where they grew the topiaries and shaped them. I was so thrilled to be able to take a look at the topiaries when they were only half done and see the work that went into them. I think it is an amazing art form.
This year Disney has really outdone themselves. It seems like everywhere you turn you are greeted by a favorite Disney character topiary. Here are some more pictures of my favorites this year...
Guests to Walt Disney World often lamented the lack of really good pizza options within the resort…. until the opening of Via Napoli in 2010. Finally, there is a great place to have authentic, wood-fired pizzas in the "World!"
Via Napoli is located in the Italy pavilion of Epcot. It is a beautiful restaurant that features an open kitchen where you can see your pizza coming out of one of the massive ovens. Yes, the openings of the ovens are the mouths of those sculptures!
On my latest trip to the restaurant, I ordered the Mozzarella Caprese salad. So simple and so good.
Another appetizer is the Calimari Fritte (Fried Calimari) I am not a huge fan of calimari, but I have to say that this was very tasty. Crispy, not greasy… and the tomato sauce was great for dipping.
For my entree, I had to try one of of the pizzas. I love artichokes, so I chose an artichoke and sausage pizza. As you can see, it wasn’t loaded with toppings and a ton of cheese. The crust was nice and chewy-crisp… not made soggy by the toppings.
Another entree for the table was the Veal Parmigiana – served on the bone and with a baked pasta side dish. The veal was good, but I found the side dish to be pretty dry. I think some regular pasta and sauce on the side would have been better.
Now the really good part… dessert...
*Update May 28, 2015 - the menu items do change often and this review does not reflect all of the current offerings. However, the experience and location is the same, so we still find it helpful.
If you are looking to dine with the Princesses at the Disneyland Resort, Ariel’s Grotto is the place to be. Located in the Paradise Pier section of Disney’s California Adventure Park, Ariel’s Grotto is a wonderful dining experience.
Once you check in at the front desk, you are led downstairs to the dining room. Before you are seated, you will have the opportunity to have a picture taken with Ariel herself (in her ball gown). She greets each guest as they enter the dining room and this is a magical start to the meal.
You can request to be seated inside the dining room or outside on the patio. As it was a beautiful day, we ate outside. I loved the view of Paradise Bay!
Inside the dining room, the Royal Footman announces the arrival of each Princess. You miss this bit of pomp and circumstance if you are eating outside, but the Princesses still visit each table. In addition to Ariel, we met Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty).
Anyway… let’s get to the food! The meal is a mix of Family-Style and a la Carte entree choices. Your table is served an antipasti tower to share, you choose your own entree and then you share a dessert platter. Here is the lunch menu… although you will see that we received different items on our antipasti tower and dessert platter...
One benefit to being a Guest of a Disney Resort is access to Disney’s Magical Express. It is such a hassle-free joy to walk off of your flight in Orlando, skip baggage claim and be whisked away to your Walt Disney World Resort! For this complimentary airport transportation service, you need to reserve your Magical Express transportation by booking online (or have your Disney travel planner do it for you!).
When you arrive at Orlando International Airport, fiirst say “Hi!" to Mickey as you walk by the Disney Store inside the Main Terminal Building. This is a great time to stop for a moment and put your MagicBands on.
Continue to the “B” side and take an elevator (or escalator) down to Level 1. Then...
"Strolling around the World"... ah, it sounds so romantic. However, once you have kids, strolling takes on a whole new meaning. “Taking a stroll” no longer refers to long, slow, romantic walks with your significant other… no… it becomes the main means of transporting your little one(s). At Disney World, your stroller is a very important piece of equipment.
Napping under the sun canopy at Epcot
1. Should I bring my own stroller to Disney World?
This is a question we get asked a lot. If you have the right kind of stroller, the answer is “yes”! By the right kind of stroller we mean… fairly light and compact, folds easily and has some storage space for all of your goodies. A large canopy is helpful in the strong Florida sunshine (and brief rain showers) as well.
There is a long-held tradition of gifting homemade Hot Cross Buns to family and friends on Good Friday. I have always heard of Hot Cross Buns (and played the song on my recorder in Elementary School!), but I had never tried one... until today. I found a recipe in my Delicious Disney Holiday cookbook, and it states that this seasonal item can be found at the BoardWalk Bakery... one of my favorite places!
You need to allow time for the dough to rise, but other than that, it is a fairly quick and easy recipe. Here are the assembled ingredients.
Mix 1 cup warm milk and 1 packet yeast and set aside for 5 minutes. Then combine 3 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 tsp cinnamon in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attached.
If you ever want to really, really splurge on a Disneyland Resort vacation… then look no further than the themed suites at the Disneyland Hotel. You can choose between the Fairy Tale, Big Thunder, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mickey Mouse Penthouse and the Adventureland Suite. They are all beautiful, but the Adventureland Suite is particularly fun.
You know you are entering a special suite when you are greated by a tiki mask at the door, and the doorbell delivers the exotic sound of tiki gods playing drums. The theming has already begun…
You enter into a gorgeous living/dining space that trasports you to another space and time. There is seating for six at the dining table, a leather sleeper sofa, a closet hidden by a “bookshelf”, and a flatscreen tv that transforms into a painting when not in use above a faux fireplace. It is as if you are on a luxury safari in the heart of the Disneyland Resort!
I love the plush reading nook in the living room area.
Staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is a wonderful experience. The Grand Floridian is Disney’s flagship resort and is reminiscent of Florida’s 19th century luxurious seaside hotels.
Why should you choose the Grand Floridian Resort?
With 867 rooms located in 4- and 5-story buildings, the Grand Floridian has a gorgeous location on the Seven Seas Lagoon. One of three “Monorail” resorts, transportation to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot is as easy as can be. The 5-story Grand Lobby is an impressive place to regroup after a day at the parks and often features live entertainment … either a band or a pianist, depending on the time of day.
Here it is in all its glory… the Warm Colossal Cinnamon Roll! When I first heard about this new Disney treat, I knew I had to seek it out. I love cinnamon rolls… especially Disney cinnamon rolls… and I was hoping this wouldn’t disappoint.
At first glance, it honestly didn’t look like anything special… other than its size. A little on the dark side and not enough frosting. It looked like it was going to be dry, and I don’t like a dry Cinnamon Roll!
I could not have been more wrong. It was warm, soft and buttery. True, there isn’t a ton of white icing, but it is dripping in a caramel syrup (you can see it pooling in the bottom of the plate). This decadent treat has hurtled itself to the top of my Disney Cinnamon Roll list!
But at $8.99 is this Cinnamon Roll really worth the cost? As you can see, it is aptly named a “Colossal” Cinnamon Roll. It is really huge… basically 5 “regular” Cinnamon Rolls baked together, so you probably should share this with 4 of your best friends. They will be best friends for life if you give them a bite of your Warm Colossal Cinnamon Roll. If you share the roll the cost doesn’t seem so outrageous, so I think it is worth it
The Warm Colossal Cinnamon Roll can be found at the Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is an unassuming little food window in the Africa section of the park. It could easily be missed, but don’t!
What is your favorite Disney Cinnamon Roll?