Archive | Festivals & Special Events

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival – What’s New This Year

The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival began March 1 and continues through May 29, 2017. Last year’s International Flower & Garden Festival was 90 days. This year’s is about the same at 89 days.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Donald and Daisy at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. ©Disney.

During this Orlando theme park special event, guests get to experience the topiaries that are on display and participate in several free activities. There are also free concerts, presentations and kids activities. The outdoor kitchens which were introduced a couple of years ago will dot the beautiful landscape at Epcot and serve up a wide variety of cuisine (food and beverages are an additional cost). To get a taste of everything, it can run hundreds of dollars, so be sure to check out your choices, then narrow it down to a few dishes you feel you have to try. Remember, you can fill up later with your dinner show tickets at Capone’s Dinner & Show, which is just down the road from Epcot.

Epcot Gardens

Anna and Elsa Topiaries at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Anna and Elsa will remain very popular at this year’s festival. ©Disney

One of the new topiaries for this year’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival features Phineas and Ferb located near the Odyssey Bridge. Another new favorite is The Three Caballeros topiary located where else, but at the Mexico Pavilion. You can find Figment, another new topiary behind Spaceship Earth.

Still in the list for most popular attractions are the Anna and Elsa topiaries. They return again with nearly 100 other topiaries spread out through the exhibits. These make for great photo ops! Have fun looking for them all. You may even be tempted to taste one at the newer edible garden near The Land Pavilion! You may also want to check out the Cactus Road Rally area. This garden is “sharp” as well as interesting. Too bad you won’t find a topiary of Al or any of the Wise Guys! To see them, you’ll just have to drive east on Hwy. 192 to Capone’s and have dinner and enjoy the show.

Outdoor Kitchens at The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Over a dozen outdoor kitchens feature food and drink items that are difficult to find at any Orlando restaurant. It is an excellent opportunity to test out some dishes you’ve been meaning to try. The new outdoor kitchens this year are Northern Bloom and The Berry Basket. The first representing Canadian foods and the other offering plenty of berry-licious dishes. Other Outdoor Kitchens include:

  • Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market
  • Cider House
  • Fleur de Lys
  • Florida Fresh
  • Hanami
  • Jardin de Fiestas
  • La Isla Fresca
  • Lotus House
  • Northern Bloom
  • Pineapple Promenade
  • Primavera Kitchen (Mamma Capone’s favorite because it features Italian cuisine – try the meatball parmigiana)
  • Taste of Marrakesh
  • The Berry Basket
  • THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews
  • Urban Farm Eats
  • Specialty Coffee Carts Hosted by Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company®

If you have kids, be sure to check out last year’s new play area themed around the “Fab Five” – Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. You also won’t want to miss the Urban Farm Eats kitchen. It is a garden where your children can learn about many of the items we eat and how they are grown and raised. How can swimming fish help growing vegetables?

Garden Rocks Concert Series

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival performance

After dining and doing, relax at a free concert during your weekend visit to this Orlando theme park at the Garden Rocks concert series. All concerts take place at America Gardens Theatre, with show times at 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM and 8:00 PM every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Currently the concert schedule features these popular acts:

  • March 3 & 4, 2017 – Jon Secada
  • March 5 & 6, 2017 – Dennis DeYoung featuring the music of STYX
  • March 10 to 13, 2017 – The Pointer Sisters
  • March 17 & 18, 2017 – Simple Plan – NEW!
  • March 19 & 20, 2017 – Plain White T’s
  • March 24 to 27, 2017 – Night Ranger
  • March 31 to April 3, 2017 – Little River Band
  • April 7 to 10, 2017 – Blood, Sweat and Tears featuring Bo Bice
  • April 14 to 17, 2017 – Gin Blossoms
  • April 21 to 24, 2017 – The Orchestra starring former members of ELO
  • April 28 & 29, 2017 – Exposé – NEW!
  • April 30 & May 1, 2017 – Berlin featuring Terri Nunn – NEW!
  • May 5 to 8, 2017 – STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas
  • May 12 to 15, 2017 – The Guess Who
  • May 19 to 22, 2017 – Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
  • May 26 to 29, 2017 – The Spinners
Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Tickets

While most Epcot Flower and Garden Festival events are included with your theme park ticket, some experiences require a separate purchase or a separate admission fee. The easiest way to know before you go is to visit Epcot’s web site or call 407-824-4321. Currently a one-day pass to Epcot ranges from $99 to $119.

If you’d like to enjoy a buffet dinner, some dancing and a spectacular show after visiting the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, save a night for Capone’s. While there will not be any colorful topiaries growing at this Kissimmee attraction, there will be some colorful characters! Between the guests and the gangsters, you’ll be exposed to an entire garden of comedy variety. It’s a blast!

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It’s Mardi Gras Time in Orlando

With Fat Tuesday on February 28th this year, Mardi Gras events at Universal Studios are in full swing now through March 25, 2017. You can “catch the beads, catch the music, catch the spirit” without going to New Orleans! It’s a party the entire family will enjoy.

New this year: The event will happen every night for 50 days in a row. Over 4 million beads will be thrown out! Six new floats join the parade, including the Phoenix float that is topped with real flames.

Previously the Orlando theme park celebrated this event only on the weekends. This year the celebration happens every night. You can catch beads and doubloons by the handful as the spectacular parade winds its way through the park with dazzling floats, colorful costumes, towering stilt walkers, entertaining street performers and dancers. Many of the floats are professionally built by Blaine Kern Studios, who have been creating Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans for over 60 years.

Mardi Gras Parade

Mardi Gras Parade

The parade happens at Universal Studios every night in which the Mardi Gras event is held. The parade starts about an hour before the headline concert. Usually around 7:45 p.m. However, if you want a good spot for the parade, it is not unlikely for people to line the parade route a couple hours prior to the start. Concert lines can start as early as the morning of the event!

Since adults will be adults, if you are attending this event with small children, you may want to stay close to the Little Jester’s Parade viewing area which is located in front of the Brown Derby Hat Shop (near the Terminator 2: 3-D attraction). Avoid the Music Plaza area as this is where people line up for the concert and can get a little crazy. Fun if you’re an adult. Not so fun if you are a parent with an inquisitive child.

Mardi Gras Entertainment

Some big names in music will be performing live at the Universal Music Plaza stage. There is also live music in the French Quarter section of the theme park, as well as authentic Cajun cuisine. I can hear the Zydeco music and taste the Jambalaya already!

2017 Concerts include: 

  • Feb. 4: Trace Adkins
  • Feb. 11: Ne-Yo
  • Feb. 18: Collective Soul
  • Feb. 19: X Ambassadors
  • Feb. 25: Fifth Harmony
  • March 4: Yandel
  • March 5: Olivia Newton-John
  • March 11: UB40
  • March 12: Toby Keith
  • March 18: Jason Derulo
  • March 19: Earth, Wind & Fire
  • March 25: The All-American Rejects

After you’ve caught all the beads and listened to some great live music, continue the party at Universal CityWalk on Mardi Gras event nights. Your Universal Studios theme park ticket or Annual Pass gets you FREE admission to several unique clubs and bars (provided you’re at least 21 years of age). CityWalk is open every night until 2:00 am.

Mardi Gras is included with your Universal Studios admission or annual pass. They have on-site hotel deals as well as Florida resident tickets and specials. Check their website for more information www.universalorlando.com.

Other Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday Options

If you are not the type to attend a major theme park on Fat Tuesday, but still want to get out and do something fun, there are other options. Downtown Orlando will have its share of parties as well as many other bars around town. If you feel like taking a drive, go to New Smyrna Beach. Spend a day at the beautiful beach and stay for the Mardi Gras parade (mentioned here in another post). It really is a fun time. Of course, in Kissimmee, you can’t go wrong by attending a dinner show like Capone’s.

When you’re not at Universal Studios enjoying Mardi Gras, Capone’s Dinner & Show would like to invite you to the most enjoyable dinner theatre in Central Florida. Read our reviews and comments. Our live stage production is enjoyed by all ages and will have you dancing and singing and having a great time before you enter the theater. Tickets are half price when you purchase them online. Save a night for Capone’s Dinner & Show. It’s a blast!

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ICE! at Gaylord Palms – a Limited-time Attraction

ICE! at Gaylord Palms: November 18, 2016 – January 1, 2017
For tickets & information: +1-407-586-4423

If it just isn’t cold enough right now in Florida for your taste, there is a simple solution. No, it isn’t “go back where you came from!” We love our visitors from the North, and enjoy sharing our warmer-than-there weather. If you’re looking for some cold fun though, we have it right here in Central Florida – ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort.

ICE! at Gaylord Palms ResortICE! at Gaylord Palms this year features Charlie Brown, over two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures and four ice slides. At nine degrees, this is some COLD fun! For those of you that are 4 years and older, at least 40” tall, and are brave enough, you’re going to have a GREAT time! Bundle up and prepare to slide down the slippery and sometimes a bit bumpy slopes. This is a fun thing to do in Orlando that you won’t get to do very often.

Prices for ICE! are:

  • Online & Advance Sales
    Adults (ages 13+): $28.99*; Seniors (ages 55+): $26.99*; Children (ages 4-12): $14.99*
  • Box Office
    Adults (ages 13+): $29.99*; Seniors (ages 55+): $28.99*; Children (ages 4-12): $16.99*; Child (ages 3 and under): Free
  • ICE! VIP Guided Tours
    Price: $79.99/person or $265.99 for a family 4
Snow Tubing in Orlando

©Gaylord Palms Resort

Snow Tubing ICE! at Gaylord Palms

Also available this year is snow tubing! Ride the slides at ICE! and zoom down the snow-covered tubing hill at Alpine Rush Snow Tubing. This requires a combo ticket (about $16 more than the ICE! only ticket). The best deal to this attraction is to purchase an all-day gold pass. It includes ICE!, tubing, the Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt and Santa’s snow throw. A platinum pass is also offered which includes a gingerbread decorating event.

Christmas at Gaylord Palms Resort

Christmas at Gaylord Palms also features 2 million twinkling lights, an amazing 60-foot-tall Christmas tree, heartwarming visits with Santa (select times) and a Christmas Wish Light Show. Other opportunities include a Build-A-Bear workshop and Mrs. Claus Christmas Traditions and Story Time Sing-a-long. This vacation destination is a sight to behold during the holidays. The decorations and attention to detail are definitely worth a visit – even if you are not staying at this Marriott resort. Vacation packages are available, as well as Florida resident discounts and Marriott rewards specials.

ICE! at Gaylord Palms will be available through January 1, 2017, so be sure to experience this limited-time Orlando attraction before it melts away. The temperatures will get colder in Central Florida as we head into the new year, but they will never get down to 9 degrees, so experience it while you can. Of course, some of you that are visiting will “go back where you came from,” and might experience even colder temperatures! For this, we’re sorry. 🙁  Enjoy the Sunshine State and ICE! while you’re here.

 

Capone’s Dinner & Show is just a short drive away from the Gaylord Palms Resort. Spend a few hours enjoying the ICE! attraction, then make plans to warm up with Al and the gang. This Orlando dinner show is fun for the entire family.

Winter Park Autumn Art Festival this Weekend!

Just a friendly reminder that the annual Winter Park Autumn Art Festival is this weekend. I have attended this festival many years, and it does not disappoint. If you are a tourist in the area, it really is worth the drive to attend this art show.

Winter Park Autumn Art Festival

2016 Festival Poster by Don Sondag

Held in Central Park, October 8 & 9, along the historic Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park, this event is the only juried art show to feature Florida artists exclusively. The festival is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. both days and admission is FREE. The community-oriented sidewalk show presents quality visual art and live entertainment the whole family can enjoy.

There will be ceramics, digital art, drawing/graphic art, fiber media, fine crafts, jewelry, painting (all media), photography, sculpture as well as live music and entertainment. Each year, this elite group of art enthusiasts support a 43-year tradition of producing a world-class festival.

Winter Park Autumn Art Festival Entertainment

In addition to the art, the Central Park stage will feature a wide array of entertainment including:

Saturday, October 8
9:00 a.m. – Mike Petrovich
10:00 a.m. – Mike Petrovich Trio
11:00 a.m. – Maitland Middle School Jazz Ensemble
12:00 p.m. – Casey Picou
1:00 p.m. – UCF Flying Horse Jazz Ensemble
2:30 p.m. – Cat Ridgeway
3:30 p.m. – Hannah & The Lionhearts

Sunday, October 9
9:00 a.m. – Nicholas Roberts
10:00 a.m. – Swamp Sistas Songwriting Circle
11:45 a.m. – Crenshaw
1:00 p.m. – WPHS Jazz Ensemble (Michael Clemente)
2:00 p.m. – Ukiah
3:30 p.m. – Beth McKee Band

*All acts subject to change

Other Features of this Festival

In addition to the art show, there will also be children’s activities and workshops. Prepare to do some shopping at this festival since the entire community gets involved and the shops offer some great items in their sidewalk sales. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from vendors at the festival. Also featured is a beer garden for guests (21+) to sample a variety of seasonal beer.

Parking is offered along Park Avenue and on the surrounding streets, with handicap spaces available in municipal lots throughout downtown as well as in the SunTrust and Park Place garages. SunRail will not be operating during the Autumn Art Festival. Pets are allowed, but must be on a leash, and well-behaved. For more information visit their website or call (407) 644-8281.

Keep your fingers crossed that this beautiful weather will hold out and another successful Winter Park Autumn Art Festival will be enjoyed by all. This is one of my favorite art shows in Florida. If you are looking for something special to do this weekend, visit Winter Park and enjoy autumn – at least Florida’s version within art.

Halloween at Old Town – Haunts, Thrills & Zombies

Halloween at Old Town has started, just as it has within all of the Orlando theme parks. The weekend crowds are picking up, and the weekday evening events are filling up too. One of the lesser known attractions that fills up with zombies on the weekends is Old Town. This lesser-known attraction is located on Highway 192 along the Kissimmee tourist corridor.

First of all, from 8 p.m. to midnight every Friday & Saturday (Sept. 23 to Oct. 31), Halloween at Old Town fills their streets with more than just their usual car show. The muscle & classic cars compete in a decorating contest during their nightly car cruise. Zombies linger within the park to meet guests. “Thriller” performances begin, costume contests are held, and there is trick or treating for all ages (Oct. 31 from 5pm to 7pm) in a fun, safe environment. Best of all, it’s FREE! Well, most of it anyway.

Halloween at Old Town

The Haunt Event for Halloween at Old Town

The Haunt event includes free events and ticketed attractions. There are 5 scare zones that are free, 2 haunted mazes ($6 each, or $10 for both mazes) and a new zombie tag experience ($25, with $10 rebate upon badge return. After first game: $6 per game). If you’d like to experience the entire Haunt, go for the combo ticket at $55. It includes both mazes, a zombie tag game and a limited edition Haunt shirt.

The haunted mazes are called Warehouse X and Clown Town. These are best for guests 16 years of age and up. In fact, if you want to avoid the scary sections altogether, Halloween at Old Town is set up with the front of the park less scary for the little ones. The further in, the scarier it gets.

“I think the zombie tag is what will set us apart from any other haunted attractions,” said Thearon Scurlock, Old Town’s general manager. It is an all-new interactive experience held outside. Guest try their hand at surviving a zombie apocalypse. As the evening darkens, the challenge increases. How will you fair?

Costume Contests

Want to “try out” your costume prior to the big night? In the past, Halloween at Old Town has had costume contests for various age groups and within different categories. This year, it isn’t clear how Old Town is handling their costume contests. No day, time or prize information has been published as of the date of this post. Children usually don’t care if they are entered into a costume contest or not. They just want to wear their costume. So go ahead and get an extra evening’s worth out it! Do note, however, that while costumes are welcome, they must be family-friendly. Also noteworthy is the fact that masks are not allowed in the mazes.

In addition to the zombies, entertainment and rides (Fun Spot America) help raise goose bumps during this sixth year of Old Town’s Haunt. After October, watch for Old Town to begin promoting their biggest event of all. Their 30th anniversary celebration is in December!

Finally, another lesser-known attraction is just down the road from Old Town. Capone’s Dinner & Show, is 3.1 miles east at 4740 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34746. Al and his gang will be entering into their 25th anniversary in 2017, but you don’t have to wait until then to see the spectacular show. The show runs nightly and is a great way to spend an evening with gangsters and dames from an era that produced its own thrills. Save a night for this fun, action-packed dinner show. It is the best bang for your buck and doesn’t include a single zombie!