5 Reasons to Visit WDW in 2018

The countdown is on for Star Wars Land but there's still PLENTY to do at Walt Disney World in the meantime. Here are 5 reasons to visit Walt Disney World in 2018:

1. Toy Story Land

Of course Toy Story Land is the big news for 2018. Opening in Summer 2018, it will feature 2 new attractions - Alien Swirling Saucers and the Slinky Dog Dash family coaster - and the quick-service venue Woody's Lunch Box.

slinky dog dash

2. Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Food. Wine. Need I say more? We're anxiously awaiting the official dates for for the WILDLY popular festival but think end of August through November. Figment had a huge presence in 2017 - I can't wait to see the 2018 theme!

epcot food and wine festival

3. Disney Springs Opens 8 New Restaurants/Lounges

The Edison

Sticking with our food theme, Disney Springs is loading up great places to eat. The Edison opened in January and Disney calls the theme "industrial Gothic" and I call it "Disney's answer to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Kitchen at Universal's CityWalk". 

Also in January, we saw a trio of Italian restaurants open: Maria & Enzo's Restaurante, Enzo's Hideaway and Pizza Ponte. They're all nestled inside each other but have separate entrances. Be sure to peek inside Maria & Enzo's... we're big fans of the travel theme.

Later this year, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, Wine Bar George, and Terralina Crafted Italian will open making Disney Springs THE place to end your day.

4. New Destinations for Star Tours - The Adventure Continues

You might have to wait for Star Wars Land but you can visit Crait (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Batuu (a peek at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) on Star Tours - The Adventure Continues.

Star Tours new destinations

5. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

This year's event will run from February 28 to May 28 and since it's the festival's 25th anniversary, look for even more character topiaries, food, kids activities, and the Garden Rocks concerts. Try the Egg-stravaganza and new Spike's Pollen Nation Exploration scavenger hunts- they're not just for kids! Disney's picked up on the popularity of food booths and there are 15 "Outdoor Kitchens" at the festival this year.

Think of the Flower & Garden Festival as Food & Wine Festival + flowers - some of the problems with misbehavior. I'd still avoid Friday and Saturday nights ;)

My first visit to Disney World was during the Flower & Garden Festival. ::sigh::


Sure, Star Wars Land is exciting, but no need to wait - Disney still has a lot to offer in 2018. My tip: beat the 2019 crowds and enjoy a vacation this year, vacation elsewhere in 2019, and see Star Wars Land in 2020.

Taxiing Down the Sassagoula River

One of our favorite things about staying at the Port Orleans Resorts is the Sassagoula Water Taxi from the Sassagoula Steamboat Company. These simple ferries motor up and down the Sassagoula River from the Port Orleans resorts (each one separately) then to Disney Springs and back again.

Before we go any further, I have to tell you that the river is called “SausageGouda” in our house and I’ve having a really hard time typing it correctly here.

After boarding the boat at POFQ, you make your way down the river towards Disney Springs — look, there’s our building! The furthest from anything and it still only takes 3 minutes to cross the resort. I *big puffy heart* French Quarter.

Port Orleans French Quarter at Disney World

Along the way you’re going to pass golf courses. A lot of greens. A lot and lot and lot of greens. If you’re traveling with an 8-year-old, she’ll be busy waving to golfers and since it’s Disney, a lot of them will wave back. This is not the case where we live in Myrtle Beach when we’re not hanging out with Mickey.

Mia on the Sassagoula River at French Quarter

One of my favorite places to pass is the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs. Since there’s no elevator and the living area’s on the second floor – and they’re meant for families up to 9 people – we’ll most likely never stay in one but MiaMouse pretends she’s Jane and The Chief Mouse is Tarzan and that’s their house. She gets that from me, the Anti-Camper.

Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs, Disney World
Treehouse Villa at Disney World

Speaking of Saratoga Springs, it’s such a MASSIVE resort that you’ll be passing it for a long, long time.

Saratoga Springs from the Sassagoula River

Once you reach Downtown Disney, the Port Orleans taxi drops you off at Marketplace which is home to Earl of Sandwich (best.counter-service.meal.EVER!), Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, World of Disney, Ghirardelli, and so on. If you want to go to West Side, you’ll want to hop another taxi to take you to Cirque du Soleil (currently dark while they prepare for a new Disney-themed show), House of Blues and that side of the world. Or you can visit The Landing Dock which is near The BOATHOUSE, Morimoto Asia, T-Rex, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin', and more food and shopping.

We’re always a little sad when we get back to the dock and it’s time to disembark but we know we’ll be back!

Arriving home on the Sassagoula River

When’s your next stay at one of the Port Orleans Resorts?

Couscous Salad from Restaurant Marrakesh

Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot

Picture it: Back in 2010, we didn’t make Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) for dinner one night, Princess Mouse wanted to go to the Mouseketeer Club at the Grand Floridian (RIP, Mouseketeer Club), and the Chief Mouse and I needed a place to eat that night. Did I mention it was September in the midst of Free Diing? So we call Disney Dining and ask what they have available for a party of 2. They have Restaurant Marrakesh at Morocco in Epcot. Yikes. I don’t do Indian/Moroccan/etc. food and DH most certainly doesn’t but the Cast Member on the phone convinces us that it’s quite good and tells us what to order. He shrugs at me, I shrug back, and we go.

It was GREAT!

Vegetarians will do well at either the quick-service Tangierine Cafe or the table-service Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco. Any non-vegetarians in your party will find plenty of delicious meat dishes and this carnivore could’ve made a meal of the hummus and the delicious couscous recipe that follows. Yum!

Couscous Salad

  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • 1/2 of a red onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 of a sweet red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a sweet green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a zucchini, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 12 ounces cooked plain couscous
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup tangerine segments or mandarin orange segments
  • Mint sprig for garnish

1. In skillet, saute onion, garlic, sweet bell peppers and zucchini in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup olive oil to vegetables along with raisins, chickpeas and orange juice.

2. Toss vegetable mixture with couscous and pan juices. Add parsley and fold in citrus segments. Mound mixture onto a platter and garnish with mint.

Mardi Gras 2018 at Universal Orlando

Laissez les bon temps rouler! Come to Florida’s Biggest Party – Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras! 

On 13 select nights, you can sing along as some of the biggest names in music take the Music Plaza stage, including GRAMMY Award-winning rapper, Macklemore, international superstar and recording artist, Sean Paul and award-winning, multiplatinum chart-toppers, Fifth Harmony

2018 Mardi Gras Concerts at Universal Orlando

Feb. 3 - Sean Paul
Feb. 10 - The Beach Boys
Feb. 17 - Kelsea Ballerini
Feb. 18 - Andy Grammer
Feb. 24 - Macklemore
March 3 - 311
March 4 - Phillip Phillips
March 10 - TBA
March 11 - Fitz and the Tantrums
March 17 - Foreigner
March 18 - Fifth Harmony
March 24 - TBA
March 25 - BUSH

Mardi Gras floats at Universal Orlando

A constellation-themed Mardi Gras parade keep the good times rolling every night throughout the streets of Universal Studios Florida with breathtakingly detailed floats, festive krewes of colorful dancers and stilt performers, and countless beads. Six new celestial floats – including Taurus, Virgo and Serpentarius – complete a lineup of 12 intricately hand-crafted floats engineered by Kern Studios, designer of the original New Orleans Mardi Gras floats for more than 50 years. 

Mardi Gras street performers at Universal Orlando

Starting at 4pm, enjoy mouthwatering shrimp po’boys, jambalaya, beignets and more at the French Quarter Courtyard while listening to authentic sounds of New Orleans straight from Bourbon Street. 

Mardi Gras events are included in your regular admission to Universal Studios Florida. Hashtag the fun with #UniversalMardiGras and 2018's theme #ReadyforUniversal

How to Keep Your Resort Room Organized

As I’m sitting down to our packing list for our next Universal Orlando trip, I realize just how much of what we pack is actually geared towards keeping our resort room organized. We spend more time in our room than most of our clients – hello, working vacation here! – but still, no one wants to walk back into their room, tired after a long day at the parks, and have it look like a bomb went off.

Let’s look at what makes our resort life easier and more organized:

Bathroom/Vanity Area

  1. Over-the-door holder: Hang one over your bathroom door to hold brushes, sunscreen, lanyards, and more. Goodbye, messy vanity counter!
  2. Pop-up hamper: Toys, shoes, jackets… it all goes in pop-up hampers.
  3. Suction cup hooks: Great for hanging wet swimsuits and hand washables in the shower. I much prefer the hooks to the clotheslines.
  4. Air freshener: Bring your choice of compact solid or small aerosol. Enough said.
  5. Leave a suitcase open: We keep one suitcase open to fill with dirty clothes. When it’s full, it’s time to run a load or two of laundry while enjoying the pool. There’s a reason the laundry facilities are always close to the pools! Since we drive, I also bring laundry detergent and a roll of quarters but those who fly can get them from the vending machines at the laundry.

Living Area

  1. Power strip/surge protector: We use a lot of electronics (laptops, iPods, phones, iPads, cameras, etc.) and they all seem to need to be charged at the same time so the power strip/surge protector comes in handy. This will also help protect your electronics from power fluctuations.
  2. Ziploc bags: I never travel without several bags in different sizes. Snacks, toys, hair doodads, etc. all safe inside their little zippered plastic bag.
  3. Drop-it Dish: It doesn’t matter what it is – a small box, a dish, a bag, whatever – you need a place to drop stuff that you can’t put away at the moment. Everyone should know that if they can’t find something, check the box. We keep ours on top of the entertainment center and I clean it out every night.

Do you have any good packing/organization tips? Share them here and I’ll include them in an upcoming edition of the Mouse Tales Travel Newsletter. Be sure to subscribe!

Disneyland Gingerbread Beignets

There are few flavors I love more than gingerbread and few places I love more than Disneyland. Add those two together with a hint of mystery from Club 33 and you have a winning holiday dessert worthy of Mickey!

Gingerbread Beignets

Makes 24 beignets

  • 1 cup evaporated milk, heated until warm but not hot
  • 1 envelope dry active yeast
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  1. Combine evaporated milk and yeast in a large bowl; add egg, molasses, 2 tablespoons sugar, and vegetable oil. Stir until yeast dissolves and mixture is combined.
  2. Sift together 4 cups flour, salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves in a medium bowl.
  3. Add half of flour mixture to milk mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add shortening, blending until combined, then add remaining flour mixture. Knead until mixture comes together, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour, a bit at a time, if needed. Form dough into ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  5. On a floured board, roll dough to 1/3-inch thickness. Cut into 24 squares. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free area for 45 minutes.
  6. Line a plate with paper towels; set aside.
  7. Add vegetable oil to a deep-sided pot to a depth of 3 inches. Heat oil to 375°F. Drop in dough squares a few at a time, turning frequently with a long-handled slotted spoon. Cook until puffed and golden. Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to the plate lined with paper towels. Lightly tent with foil to keep warm while remaining beignets cook.
  8. Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Dust hot beignets with cinnamon-sugar mixture; serve warm.

Eggnog Crème Anglaise

  • 2 cups eggnog
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  1. Combine eggnog and milk in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until very hot but not simmering.
  2. Meanwhile, combine sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until light, thick and fluffy.
  3. Very slowly drizzle in hot eggnog mixture while beating at medium-low speed.
  4. Transfer mixture back to saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens and becomes creamy, 10 minutes. Do not simmer or the egg yolks will curdle.
  5. Remove the sauce from the heat, whisk, and strain through a fine sieve. Stir in nutmeg and cinnamon, if using. Serve warm with Gingerbread Beignets.

Don’t forget Club 33′s delicious pumpkin beignet recipe as well! And don’t forget to send me a sample!

Red-Nosed Zebra Holiday Cocktail from Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel

A little sweet, a little sassy, and just in time for the holidays. Meet the Red-Nosed Zebra cocktail from Trader Sam’s bar at the Disneyland Hotel.

Red-Nosed Zebra

Makes 1 cocktail

1.5 ounces Bacardi 8 rum

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce agave nectar

1 ounce strawberry purée

Crushed ice, 3 cranberries, 2 mint sprigs, for garnish

  1. Add all ingredients in a Boston Shaker (except garnish), fill half full with ice, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
  2. Strain into a margarita glass filled with ice. Garnish with a mound of crushed ice, cranberries, and mint sprigs to look like 2 green antlers, cranberries for eyes and nose.

I do believe it’s time for a trip to Disneyland! You too?

Gift of Magic Exclusive MagicBands Have Arrived

IMG_6525a.png

I may have squealed and done a little dance when I realized what was in that plain brown box from Experience Connection Center. I promptly ripped it open, sighed over the pretty gold box, and dove in. I'm all about the MagicBand!

They're even better than I imagined! The artwork reminds me of the Sketch Pattern Dooney & Burke purses which is still my favorite pattern.

From the gift box presentation to the bands themselves, this exclusive promotional MagicBand set it a winner. Well done, Disney!

Coming Summer 2018: TOY STORY LAND

Your Toy Story pals can’t wait to have you join them in Toy Story Land where kids and grown-ups alike can experience all-new adventures. In the so-much-larger-than-life setting of Andy’s backyard, your family is invited to shrink down and become a toy alongside Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and the rest of the Toy Story gang. Take part in the adventure together—among giant building blocks and board games that Andy’s rigged up to become a playground straight out of his vivid imagination. 

First off, Andy’s assembled his awesome coaster kit and Slinky Dog is poised to take you on a wild journey. The new Slinky Dog Dash whooshes throughout the land. Hold on for an exhilarating ride that twists Slinky Dog's coils around curves, hills, bridges and drops. It’s a crazy ride the whole family can enjoy together. 

Next, on Alien Swirling Saucers, the aliens have powered up their flying saucers to take you on a spin through space. Climb into a toy rocket and hang on as aliens lead the way on an interstellar romp set to an out-of-this-world beat. If you're really lucky, you just might get "chosen" by the claw. 

Then, head inside to Andy’s room where the toys have set up their carnival play set. On the fan-favorite Toy Story Mania!®, your Toy Story pals help you blast your way through a 4D arcade. Fire at targets with everything from baseballs to cream pies. But you better practice your aim, because high-score bragging rights are on the line for friends and families. 

Toys love snack time, too. The gang has taken a Woody’s Roundup lunch box and turned it into a Quick-Service window, in Woody’s Lunch Box, dishing out all sorts of tasty treats for “honorary toys.” 

Coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Summer 2018 - YEEHAW!