Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
One of Central Florida’s largest sporting events, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna is underway, drawing runners from around the globe to Central Florida.Each January, Central Florida becomes the center of the globe for thousands of runners who participate in the Walt Disney Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna. Runners come from more than 60 countries and all 50 states, making the event arguably the largest sporting event in Central Florida and on par with some of the area’s largest conventions.
This year, the race weekend has expanded to five days and includes a 10K, along with the Family Fun Run 5K, the Disney Half Marathon, the Disney Marathon and Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. That creates the opportunity for an unparalleled proposition in the running industry: The Dopey Challenge – running all four timed events in successive days (48.6 miles) for the chance to earn an unprecedented six medals.
With more than 50,000 runners registered, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend ranks among the most popular destination races, reflecting a growing trend in sports tourism. As more athletes combine vacation fun with the adventure and challenge of an endurance sport, the weekend has grown from approximately 5,500 runners in 1994 to more than100,000 athletes and spectators expected this year.
From children’s races to the full marathon, each activity features uniquely Disney elements such as race courses through Disney theme parks, signature Disney characters and entertainment, first-class event management and exclusive race medals for marathon participants. All these elements, combined with a flat running course led Runners’ World Magazine to rank Walt Disney World Resort races among the top ten for beginners.
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Spring 2015 will bloom with a fresh take on lush gardens, inspired flavors and lively entertainment during the 75-day Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 4-May 17 at Walt Disney World Resort. New Disney character topiaries, including a nod to the blockbuster animated film, “Frozen,” will offer colorful selfie and family photo ops. Outdoor Kitchens will serve a fresh take on sweet and savory noshes. And guests can get “hands-on” with festival fun during Disney-led gardening seminars.
- “Frozen” will melt hearts in the park’s World Showcase: Disney’s first Anna and Elsa topiaries will appear in a scene from the Oscar-winning film’s finale. Other brand-new Disney character topiaries will be Chip and Dale taking a star turn in two whimsical front-entrance “Goofy About Spring” floral vignettes. Topiary Goofy and friends will be in on the fun.
- Fresh new menu items will debut at the festival’s Outdoor Kitchens where, for the third festival year running, guests can taste garden- and spring-inspired tapas-sized food and beverages and have their complimentary Garden Passports stamped as they stroll the World Showcase promenade.
- A Southwest desert garden will premiere as a thriving ecosystem.
- Ten new mini-gardens will surprise guests around every corner. Guests will discover a new “health garden,” a pepper garden, a dinosaur-plant garden and a Shakespeare garden, among others, each designed with a storytelling element.
- Guests can discover the story of the Monarch butterfly’s epic journey across the continent and see butterflies emerge from their chrysalises at Butterflies on the Go.
- A weekend concert series will rock audiences every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Performers will include Gin Blossoms, Pablo Cruise, Village People and a lineup of top bands representing four decades of pop music.
- Disney gardeners will lead weekend how-to Gardening Seminars at the Festival Center, where guests also can pick up signature festival merchandise.
- When the sun sets, illuminated topiary and play gardens will glow brightly for an after-dark festival experience.
“This is one of our most ambitious festivals ever,” says Eric Darden, festival horticulture manager. “We’re telling stories we’ve never told before. You’ll get a fresh taste of spring — it’ll be like the first spring farmer’s market for America.”
As park guests nibble on inspired Outdoor Kitchen goodies, they can wander among multiple themed gardens and children’s play areas. Nearly 100 expertly crafted topiary characters, including Snow White, Bambi, Mickey Mouse, Simba and Peter Pan, will animate the landscape when Epcot transforms to a vibrant wonderland of sweeping garden beds and exhibits.
The “Frozen” topiary vignette at World Showcase Plaza will pop with color as Anna’s and Elsa’s icy world, illustrated with white and silver blooms of delphinium, alyssum and other floral varieties, transforms to a brilliant spring palette featuring Gerbera daisies, petunias, Sweet William and other flora.
A Health Garden near The Land pavilion in Future World will display ancient medicinal plants including garlic, aloe, chamomile, fennel, mint and others. Plants used to develop modern prescriptions will be papaya, periwinkle, turmeric, yew, thyme and valerian. And the new Shakespeare Garden at the United Kingdom pavilion will feature roses to represent Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Also in the garden: rosemary from Hamlet, lavender from The Winter’s Tale, plus representations featuring poppy, lily, honeysuckle and willow.
Butterflies on the Go will showcase with hundreds of winged beauties fluttering above and lighting upon their favorite nectar-producing plants. Dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers” and beds of multi-colored blooms will add to the floral splendor of the park’s landscape. At least 70,000 bedding plants will surround the Future World east and west lakes alone; on the water, 220 mini-gardens will be set afloat.
Several special weekend happenings will include Art in the Garden Weekend (March 27-29); Florida Fresh Weekend (April 24-26); and Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. Weekend (May 8-10).
For more information about the 22nd Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639). As the festival nears, more details will be available at epcotinspring.com. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.
Atlanta Braves Spring Training
Atlanta Braves Spring Training returns to Walt Disney World in February and March with a slate of games featuring Major League Baseball’s top teams at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The 2014 schedule has yet to be released, but the list of Grapefruit League clubs that commonly visit Champion Stadium include the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Detroit Tigers.
Guests also will be treated to game day entertainment and additional fan experiences in a way only Disney can do, from character appearances, to an exclusive On-Field Spectator Experience and kids running the bases after the game.
Information on the Braves’ spring training season, group tickets and mini-packs is available by calling 407/939-GAME (4263) and online at espnwwos.com/atlantabraves. Individual game tickets are available through Ticketmaster (800/745-3000 and ticketmaster.com) and at the sports complex box office.
Disney has released the dates for Star Wars Weekends 2015.
Weekend 1 – May 15, 16, 17
Weekend 2 – May 22, 23, 24
Weekend 3 – May 29, 30, 31
Weekend 4 – June 5, 6, 7
Weekend 5 – June 12, 13, 14
Each year, the power of the Force and magic of Disney combine as plenty of out-of-this-world characters – including Wookiees, droids, Ewoks, bounty hunters and Jedi – roam the streets of the theme park and pose in themed meet-and-greet areas. Guests can experience one of the largest Star Wars parades in the world during the day and then dance the night away at the surprise-filled “Hyperspace Hoopla.”
Jedi Training Academy, one of the interactive entertainment experiences at the theme park, is expanded during the event and allows young guests to learn from a Jedi Master before testing their newly acquired skills in a battle with Darth Vader or Darth Maul.
Also featured: the chance for fans to purchase one-of-a-kind and limited edition Star Wars memoribilia, Star Wars trivia and star conversations with Star Wars celebrities.
Event activities are included in regular theme park admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For more information and future updates, guests may check online at DisneyWorld.com, StarWars.com or DisneyParksBlog.com.
Summer sizzles at Epcot as some of the world’s greatest tribute bands rock the stage on select summer nights. Classic hits U2, The Bee Gees, The Police, and many more will rock during Sounds Like Summer concert series. The high-energy performances for Walt Disney World Resort guests take place at the open-air America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase.
The schedule (entertainment subject to change without notice):
- June 9 to 15: Stayin’ Alive ~ A Tribute to the Bee Gees
- June 16 to 22: Hotel California ~ A Salute to the Eagles
- June 23 to 29: Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot ~ The Ultimate Billy Joel Tribute Show
- June 30 to July 6: Slippery When Wet ~ The Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute
- July 7 to 13: SouthBound and Company ~ A Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd
- July 14 to 20: The Police Experience ~ A Tribute to The Police
- July 21 to 27: 2U ~ A Tribute to U2
Show times are 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. – except on July 4 when show times are 5:15, 6:30, 7:45 and 9 p.m.
Sounds Like Summer concerts are included with Epcot admission.
This year marks the 32nd year for Disney’s Night of Joy, where the best in Contemporary Christian music meets the excitement of the Magic Kingdom. From contemporary hits to hard-hitting, high-energy rock, there’s something for every kind of music fan Sept. 5-6 at Walt Disney World Resort.
This year’s lineup showcases a stage-load of talent on each night.
Friday, Sept. 5: Hillsong United, Chris Tomlin, Matthew West, for KING & COUNTRY, Mandisa, Building 429, Matt Maher, The Neverclaim
Saturday, Sept. 6: Skillet, Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Britt Nicole, Colton Dixon, Rhett Walker, We As Human, 1 Girl Nation
Single-night tickets are $59 plus tax in advance and $69 plus tax on the days of the show. To purchase tickets, or for more information about the event, guests can visit NightofJoy.com or call 407-W-DISNEY.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
This fall, the Magic Kingdom plays host to the ultimate trick-or-treating neighborhood as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party returns for 26 special nights from Sept. 1 – Oct. 31.
Entertainment features the twice nightly “Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade,” led by the infamous Headless Horseman, followed by “HalloWishes,” a green and orange fireworks display complete with Disney villains. Also, guests won’t want to miss their Disney characters dressed in their Halloween best. Not to be left out, guests are invited to dress up in favorite Halloween costumes for trick or treating and more from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. for 26 select nights.
In addition to trick-or-treating, meet and greets with Disney characters donning Halloween costumes, and entertainment unique to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, many of the popular Magic Kingdom attractions – including, of course, The Haunted Mansion – are available to experience (but beware of hitchhiking ghosts).
Party dates in 2014 are:
September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26 and 28
October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 31.
The 2015 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will begin on September 23 and end November 16.
The 53-day festival, celebrated for its inspired food-and-beverage marketplaces, high-energy concerts and premium dining events, debuts a Scotland Marketplace and adds fresh flavor to the Brazil Marketplace, returning by popular demand. Griddled lobster tail with garlic butter sizzles at the Hops & Barley Marketplace by American Adventure, and the aromas of more than 25 ethnic and specialized marketplaces — Africa, France, South Korea and Florida Local included — waft across the World Showcase Promenade. Guests can have their own complimentary “passport” stamped at each location for a fun festival souvenir.
In wine news, the festival is one of the first venues in Florida to serve wine on tap in kegs under a new Florida law allowing wine to be dispensed from sustainable stainless-steel containers. Guests can taste a Cabernet and Chardonnay from kegs at the Festival Center and sample a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir from kegs at the park’s Cool post.
Disney guests can catch culinary demonstrations by celebrity chefs like Cat Cora, Warren Brown and Jamie Deen.
Daily wine tastings and mixology seminars offer new sips to guests. Nightly Eat to the Beat concerts keep the party rockin’, and six bands make their festival debut this year. In Future World, the iconic Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog returns for a third year to introduce families to the cranberry’s rich agricultural heritage.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will have 19 magical nights from November 7 -December 19. For a quarter century, Walt Disney World Resort guests have been mesmerized by this must-see event, a grandly festive tradition immersing families in the holiday spirit. Dates for 2014:
November 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 20, 21 and 30
December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19. For information on ticket prices, click here.
Beginning at 7 p.m. (after regular park hours), guests with special event tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party can enjoy all the holiday splendor with lively stage shows featuring Disney characters all dressed up for the holidays, a unique holiday parade and favorite holiday traditions including complimentary cookies and hot cocoa, and snow flurries on Main Street, U.S.A. The fun continues with a holiday “Celebrate the Magic” castle projection show and Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season nighttime fireworks spectacular. Guests can enjoy new experiences and attractions at New Fantasyland.
NOTE: this is a hard ticket special event after regular park hours; purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended.
New voices join an illustrious list of celebrity narrators when Candlelight Processional returns to Epcot® at the Walt Disney World® Resort this holiday season.
During this favorite holiday tradition, the rich sounds of a full orchestra and choir fill the America Gardens Theatre as a special celebrity guest narrator takes the stage for a stirring retelling of the Christmas story accompanied by inspiring music.
New to the Candlelight Processional stage are Jonathan Groff, voice of the character Kristoff in Disney’s “Frozen”; Joe Morton, who plays Kerry Washington’s father on “Scandal”; and actress Ana Gasteyer. Check out the full schedule below.Nov. 27-29 Gary SineseNov. 30-Dec. 3 Neil Patrick Harris
- Dec. 4-5 Whoopi Goldberg
- Dec. 6-8 Joe Morton
- Dec. 9-11 Ana Gasteyer
- Dec. 12-14 Meredith Viera
- Dec. 15-17 America Ferrera
- Dec. 18-20 Chandra Wilson
- Dec. 21-23 Daniel Dae Kim
- Dec. 24-26 Edward James Olmos
- Dec. 27-28 Blair Underwood
- Dec. 29-30 Amy Grant
Show times are at 5 p.m., 6:45 p.m and 8:15 p.m. nightly. Show times on Dec. 7 are at 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. only. Narrators are subject to change without notice. Theme Park admission is required.
Holidays Around The World
Guests become immersed in the festivities, as they experience a celebration of the holidays from the various countries throughout World Showcase. The merriment continues with meet and greets with Santa and Mrs. Claus, plus the nightly “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” laser, light, fireworks display capped with a seasonal finale.
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights: This massive seasonal display features millions of dancing lights, plus animated displays and 3-D effects perfectly synchronized to electrifying holiday tunes amidst snowfall. The rich tradition takes place on the Streets of America, dazzling guests from Nov. 8, 2013 to Jan. 5, 2014.
Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade
Celebrate safari style as Disney’s Animal Kingdom is wilder than ever this winter season. Mickey and his pals rejoice in traditional holiday music with a world beat twist during the daily “Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade” Nov. 7, 2013 to Jan. 2, 2014.
New Years Eve at Walt Disney World
From lunches and dinners to a New Year’s Day brunch, there are more than a dozen spots for ringing in the New Year.
At Epcot World Showcase, Biergarten Restaurant in Germany is offering both lunch and dinner celebrations; La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico is offering a New Year’s Eve dinner; Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada has three seatings, and Monsieur Paul in France starts celebrating at noon with seatings throughout the day and evening. The World ShowPlace pavilion also will host a party.
In the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland Terrace will feature a New Year’s Eve fireworks dinner and dessert party.
In the resorts, special dining for ringing in the New Year is planned at Flying Fish Café at Disney’s Boardwalk; Cítricos, Victoria & Albert’s and Narcoossee’s, all at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa; California Grill and Chef Mickey’s (New Year’s Day brunch) at Disney’s Contemporary Resort; Boma – Flavors of Africa (New Year’s Day breakfast) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (lunch and dinner).
For information and reservations, 407-WDW-DINE.