Christmas is always a special time of year. When you add in being at Walt Disney World in Florida during this time of year, you get something extra special and magical. This winter, Hollywood Studios is transforming into an enchanted winter wonderland. It’s going to be filled with new Disney twists and characters.

Taking place from November 9th through December 31 st , guests will get wrapped up in the season as snow falls and the lights twinkle on Sunset Boulevard. Not only will all of the billboards change to tell a tale of iconic characters sharing their love for the season, but the ominous Hollywood Tower Hotel, a.k.a. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, magically transforms bringing to life the characters’ stories. Some of these stories include Mickey and Minnie reminiscing about a hometown Christmas, Toy Story characters guessing which new toys are coming this Christmas, Olaf pining over his holiday wish as music from Frozen plays in the background.

The only thing that could make the happenings on Sunset Boulevard complete would be a visit with the big guy in red. Well, consider that checked off your list! At Once Upon a Time store, you’ll find Old Saint Nick greeting good girls and boys. Be sure to visit with him before Christmas, as he’ll only be available from November 9th to December 24th!

On the other side of the Boulevard, Echo Lake will also be getting a merry makeover. It will be decorated with extra-large ornaments, colorful garlands and a giant Christmas tree centered in the water. Dinosaur Gertie will even be donning some festive attire!

A perfect way to wrap up your winter wonderland experience at Hollywood Studios is to make your reservations for the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party! Indulge in a jolly spread of specialty sweets and sips before settling in to watch a Santa-sized spectacular from a reserved viewing area. Relish holiday-inspired snacks, delicious desserts, wine, beer, specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages—and mingle with a VIP Disney Character.

You’ll then be able to enjoy 2 shows from your reserved viewing area, Disney’s Movie Magic and Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, a holiday special hosted by elves Wayne and Lanny From Prep & Landing. They feature state of the art projections, iconic music, fireworks and special effects. Disney’s Movie Magic builds to a festive finale that must be seen and heard to be believed.

As you’ve read, Hollywood Studios is going to be one of the merriest places to be this holiday season. It will be sure to add more magic to an already magical experience. It’s one not to miss!

Leigh Miller

Travel Specialist

 

We are so excited with the latest Universal announcement! A brand new, thrilling Harry Potter inspired ride will be making its way to Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2019. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade has already been a place of fun and excitement, but now this fan-favorite spot will offer more to guests!

We don’t know everything about this new thrill ride, but we have been informed on some special information. Take a look below at some of the latest details!

  1. This is a brand-new, thrill ride that will take you deeper into J.K. Rowling’s famous Wizarding World. You will become more engrossed in the Wizarding World as you journey along this ride. You will encounter some of your favorite characters and creatures. This new ride will be unlike anything Universal has ever created, and they are sure it will sure to be a favorite for the entire family!
  2. If you’re a Potterhead than this ride is for you! The new attraction will be one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences at Universal. This means lots of fun and exciting Wizarding World items and memorabilia. The ride combines a new level of storytelling with {of course} an action-packed adventure! There will also be a few surprises along the way that will have you coming back for more!
  3. Universal’s award-winning creative team has been collaborating with Warner Bros, and the incredible production design team from the Harry Potter films. You can be sure to see and experience a top-notch, fan favorite ride!
  4. This ride will be the absolute perfect addition to the thriving town of Hogsmeade. This new attraction will transport you into a new and thrilling place and will draw you into more exciting Wizarding World adventures!
  5. Universal will be permanently closing the Dragon Challenge on September 5th to make way for this incredible new thrill ride. The last day of operation for the Dragon Challenge will be Monday, September 4th. Be sure to take advantage of the last days of the Dragon Challenge before its closing.

Keep checking back for more updates! We can’t wait to hear more from Universal about this fun new attraction!

Ready to visit the incredible and amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Contact an agent today to book your next Universal or Disney vacation! All Me and The Mouse agents are highly trained in both destinations!

Meeting a Disney LegendWhat makes Disney so magical? The Cast Members! While Disney would still be an amazing place to visit, it’s the cast members who spread the magic to all the millions of guests who visit the parks every year.

For our family, we enjoy meeting cast members and getting to know a little about them and where they come from. These special encounters happen spontaneously throughout the parks and at the resorts and often start with a simple “hello.”

My most favorite cast member of all is Mr. Richard who greets guests at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. I’d seen lots of posts on Facebook of photos with guests, so when I pulled up to the Grand Floridian and saw him standing there, I had to meet him. He is quite literally a Disney celebrity or legend!

We had a wonderful conversation about his life and where he’s been.

Here are just a few of the things I learned about him:

  • Mr. Richard (Gerth) has been a greeter at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort since 1991. His wife had passed away the previous year leaving him to wonder, “What will I do now?” He decided to pack up and move to Orlando, and he’s been there ever since!
  • He will be celebrating his 92nd birthday this year!
  • Mr. Richard served in World War II under General Patton! (This is a whole story in itself!)
  • He especially loves escorting brides and helping them with their trains during their weddings at Walt Disney World.
  • A Facebook page was created for him {Check that out, HERE}. He admits he never gets online, but he is happy to pose with guests and enjoys when they share their photos on his page.

Take time to stop for a chat with a cast member. Ask them where they’re from, how long they have been helping to create Disney magic, what their favorite things are. You never know who you’re going to meet and what amazing stories they can share with you. Several Me and The Mouse Agents have worked as Cast Members. They have some great stories and tips from their time working at the Happiest Place on Earth!

 

Special note: In addition to his truly sweet nature that immediately makes you love him, he is such a classic gentleman! He was happy to take a photograph with me and immediately extended his arm to wrap mine in his. I think that’s what I’ll remember most about our first meeting!

Ready to meet the legend, Mr. Richard? Contact a Me and The Mouse today to book your next trip!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

If you haven’t stopped by Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the past few months then, you have haven’t noticed the big changes occurring in and around the park. With the addition of Star Wars and Toy Story lands, the park is undergoing extensive work. These two new themed lands will add approximately 20 acres to the park {& a LOT of extra fun}! We are so excited to see and experience the new extensions that will be happening in Florida. Here is an update of where things currently stand. P.S. You should get EXCITED!!

Starting inside the park and with the Star Wars addition, the Streets of America along with the backlot and car stunt show are no longer. A few buildings remain along the street but outside of that not much is there. There are mounds of dirt and the start of new ride buildings gearing up for the opening in 2019. Toy Story land is also under way with a planned opening in 2018, this section of the park will start near Toy Story Mania and circle around eventually to the Star Wars land. This should make a large loop around the park. 

 

There have been very few released details about each of the two lands and access inside of these construction areas are off limits for obvious reasons. However, there is a lot of information regarding the outside of the park including parking and the new entrance. Hollywood Studios has always had the smallest parking lot and has experienced issues lately with access off of Buena Vista Drive. That is all changing. {Wahoo!!} They are expecting a huge influx of attendance projected in the next two years. Disney has decided to add a new driving entrance that will be located off of Osceola Parkway. (See attached road drawings submitted by Disney)

Star Wars LandStar Wars Land

There will be a new interchange near Victory Way and Osceola at the ESPN Wide World of Sports entrance. This interchange will guide cards into the parking lot from an entire new direction. The parking lot is getting upgraded to accommodate the high traffic. By the looks of aerial photos the parking lot will nearly double in capacity with a private lot for Cast Members. Speculation is there will be a private bus route in the park too, limited entrance to guest cars only.

Star Wars Land

As you can see, work is moving along quickly at the Studios. In the coming months, I will post another update as much will be completed this summer and further details. Star Wars and Toy Story lands are expected to be announced at the D23 conference in Anaheim in July. Stay tuned!

You don’t have to wait until Star Wars and Toy Story lands are opened to the public to visit Disney World! Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today to book your trip to a Disney Destination!

Ryan Gross

Travel Specialist

Leaky Cauldron - Universal StudiosIf you are like most Universal Orlando guests, you start your morning by running to the back of Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure to beat the crowds to see all of the Harry Potter attractions.  After some playing, you are bound to feel hungry.  Good news!  You can continue to feel the magic of the Wizarding World with meals and snacks inspired by the series.
On the Universal Studios side, immerse yourself in London, get all of your Wizarding supplies and grab a meal at the Leaky Cauldron.  This restaurant serves breakfast,  lunch and dinner in the setting of the famous pub right out of the movies.   I prefer to grab breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron just after my ride on the Escape From Gringotts and before heading over to Hogsmeade on the Hogwarts Express.  On the Islands of Adventure side, head over to Three Broomsticks from some traditional English fare.  The ordering stations are laid out to look just like you are checking in as a guest of this famous inn.  This restaurant does a fabulous job of immersing guests into the movie while they enjoy a tasty meal.

 

Do I need to make reservations?

Leaky Cauldron - Universal StudiosNo!  Both of these restaurants are considered counter service locations so simply decide when you want to eat, walk up and order.  Prices range from a reasonable $9.99-$16.99 or 1 counter service credit on the Universal Dining Plan.  Both of these restaurants are pretty busy all day, but don’t let a line deter you.  They move people very quickly and there is always room to sit.

 

Leaky Cauldron - Universal Studios

If you are having way too much fun to take time to sit and eat, but still want to experience some Harry Potter treats, there are plenty of options.  If Butterbeer is what you crave, there are plenty of Butterbeer carts in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley served regular, frozen or my personal favorite, Butterbeer ice cream.  If you want a more magical snack to take home as a souvenir, visit Honeydukes in Hogsmeade.  You can fill your own bag of Bertie Bott’s, take home some Butterbeer fudge or surprise your friends with some Exploding Bon Bons!

 

Leaky Cauldron - Universal StudiosUniversal does an excellent job of immersing guests in the magic of Harry Potter.  Eating like a wizard here is a magical experience for both adults and kids.

 

For more information about Universal or to book your vacation, please contact a Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist. We are highly trained in both Universal and Disney destinations, and we would love to assist you!

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist

An Out-of-This Galaxy Experience!

Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney Hollywood StudiosFrom the red carpet entrance by Captain Phasma and her Storm Troopers, to meeting BB-8 (yes, he made his debut!), to watching the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Fireworks show, this was one of our best family nights. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was the perfect backdrop for the average Star Wars fan.

We walked in and were immediately greeted by members of the Rebel Alliance that supplied us with our special event lanyard. The lanyard had the SW Galactic Nights image on one side and sticker pieces that we would collect at each photo backdrop on the other. The stickers would display an array of images from all the movies when complete. It also would display a secret message that would appear at the end of the night.

We headed towards the SW Launch Bay and were surrounded by many different R2 units. It included the regular blue and white R2D2, a psychedelic R2, a Poe Dameron R2 and many others. Our son, Adyn, had a blast stopping to take pictures with each one. It all just seemed unreal. We got to visit with Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Boba Fett and…BB-8! Watching Adyn interacting with BB-8 was so much fun. He was convinced that he was being given the secrets to saving the Rebel base.

Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney Hollywood Studios

Even though this was a Star Wars event, all the rides we still running and the lines were more than manageable. Most in attendance were so busy trying to get their picture taken with each of the backdrops that were positioned throughout the park. The Rockin’ Rollercoaster ride was also in character as it was zooming through hyperspace for the event. And just around the corner from the ride we stopped by for the boys to take a picture of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Even the Force could not set him free! Not to worry, Jabba the Hutt was just next door keeping an eye on him.

Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney Hollywood Studios

Now, Adyn isn’t the typical 9 year old when it comes to Star Wars. He likes to know the why. Disney was able to bring together some of the people behind the voices and model sets of the franchise. We sat in the Indiana Jones stadium and learned about what makes them tick, how they got their start and how they felt about joining the Star Wars family. Alan Tudyk, voice of K-2SO, was sharing his experience on set and how much fun he had.

 

Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney Hollywood StudiosAfter some popcorn and shopping stops, we made our way to one last character before finding a place to park for the fireworks. The night was so magical that only Sorcerer Mickey could be in attendance. He knew only a Jedi could use the force to do the Fantasia dance, so he and Adyn paired up and showed us their moves. The line for Mickey and Princess Minnie was no more than 5 minutes, so we had plenty of time to find place where we could get a good view of what was to come.

To call it a firework spectacular is an understatement. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of witnessing what Disney has put together, I recommend you make the trip. They combine a series of film clips and engaging scenes with fun and excitement blended with the right queue of fireworks. Not one movie is left out. A perfect ending to a wonderful Star Wars experience.

 

Take A Look at More of the Fun!

 

Marisela Del Cid

Me and The Mouse Client

Experience this Deliciousness at Universal’s CityWalk

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumLooking for a unique experience while visiting Orlando?  So was I – on Valentine’s Day while visiting my daughter. What comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day?  Perhaps flowers and candy?  Perhaps chocolate?  Yes, indeed.

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal’s CityWalk is perfect for a Valentine’s Day celebration.  Let’s be honest – this place is perfect to visit any day of the year!  If I lived closer – I would be sure to visit frequently so I could try practically everything on the menu.

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumThe Chocolate Emporium is a full service restaurant, bar and confectionary with a steam punk theme.  It is two stories with seating on both levels.  The menu offering is tremendous making it hard to choose just one item.  Their brunch menu is served all day featuring unique crepes, waffles, French toast and quiches.  Also served are soups and salads, sandwiches and burgers, flatbreads, pasta, and entrees such as steaks, pork chops and delicious chicken options as well. Unique milkshakes, sundaes and specialty desserts are offered to fulfill your sweet tooth. (Gluten Free options are available as well.)

Here are just a few of their unique offerings:  Black and Tan Onion Rings (Onion Rings with cocoa ranch dipping sauce.) – Pork Belly Sliders (Caramelized onions, mustard aioli, arugula, chocolate dipped bacon, pretzel bun)

What was on the menu for us you ask?

Toothsome Chocolate EmporiumFor starters, we began with their signature temptation of Warm Chocolate Almond Bread with Salted Carmel butter.  We continued our culinary journey with a ½ pound house-made hamburger patty, Colby andouile queso, cheddar cheese, grain mustard on a pretzel bun, and we upgraded our kettle chips to truffle fries.  Finally, we pondered how we wanted to finish our heavenly visit, and we decided to add a milkshake for dessert.   What did we choose?  The Salted Dulce De Leche {Salted Carmel ice cream, dulce de leche, salted pretzels, fresh whipped cream, and chocolate cigars.}

After all these choices, if you are still craving chocolate, visit the confectionary located on the lower level to enjoy later.  I give this Emporium two thumbs up.

 

See more pictures in the gallery below!

 

Trying to figure out your next Orlando vacation? Contact a Me and The Mouse agent today! We’re specialized in Disney, Universal, and much more! We’d love to help take the stress away from your vacation planning.

 

Traci Perjak

Travel Specialist

 

{& Why These Cast Members Will Be
Some of Your Favorite Faces!}

 

Baby Care StationI have done what so many other moms like me have done and what so many others have thought me crazy for.  I have taken my very young children to enjoy the Disney parks. My kids were both under 1 year when we started taking them to the Disney parks regularly. I understand how we want to share our love of Disney and all the magic that that entails with our children, and I also understand how tiring that can be. Disney has created a place even for the smallest guests (and for those caring for them). It is called (*the sounds of angels descending* and cue the spotlight) the Baby Care Station.

With one Baby Care Station located centrally in each of the Disney theme parks (both at Walt Disney World and at the Disneyland Resort), you can find a quiet retreat to nurse or feed your baby, change diapers or visit the toilets, or just grab a quiet corner to escape the bustle and weather outside. They are staffed with the sweetest cast members who are there to help you take care of your little one.

The main room has tables and chairs, as well as high chairs. Forgot something? They also have a small area where you can purchase some of the essentials, such as diapers and baby food.Baby Care Station

When my kids were little, this was one (of many!) of the bright spots to our visit. They loved the pint-sized potties made just for them, and I loved knowing the wonderful cast members were always there for me to offer a smile (or help avoid a diaper emergency!).

Sure, it might sound silly, but when you spend a full day playing in the parks with your young ones, anything that can help keep everyone comfortable and happy is a blessing.

If you are traveling with Littles on your next visit to the parks, grab your map and locate the Baby Care Station for later. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

Rider Switch PassEver wonder if you’ll miss out on riding an attraction at Disney World because you’re traveling with someone either not tall enough or who does not want to ride?
No worries! Disney offers a Rider Switch pass for guests in this situation.

 

What is Rider Switch?

Rider Switch (aka child swap/rider swap) allows an adult who has waited off the attraction with a child or guest unable to ride, the ability to enjoy the ride after the remainder of his/her party returns from the line.

 

Reasons for not riding

  • Height restrictions
  • Guests with disabilities
  • Child chooses not to ride Rider Switch Pass

 

How does it work?

  1. The entire party goes to the front of the line of the attraction they wish to ride (either the stand-by line or FastPass line, if they have one).
  2. Let the Cast Member at the front of the line know you need a Rider Switch for the adult waiting with the non-rider(s).Rider Switch Pass
  3. Depending on the ride, the process for obtaining the Rider Switch pass may vary. At some attractions, the pass may be given to the group waiting off the attraction immediately OR the riders may be given a green lanyard to carry as they enter the line.
  4. The non-riders find a place to rest outside the attraction, enjoy other areas of the park, shop, or enjoy another attraction as they wait.
  5. If given a lanyard, the riders will exchange it with the next cast member in line. That cast member will provide them with a paper pass for the other adult to use later.
  6. Once the riders meet back with the non-riders, the waiting adult can now go to the attraction’s FastPass line with the Rider Swap ticket. They can take up to 3 guests with them.

Rider Switch expiration

There is generally an expiration date on Rider Switch passes.  Some are SAME DAY passes (must be used by the close of the park that day) and some may be good for a few days/weeks (due to expiring at the end of the month).

Rider Switch Pass

This means non-riders do NOT need to use the pass immediately after the initial riders have ridden.  They can return before the expiration date to ride.

**If you choose to use the pass on a different day, park admission is required.

 

Rides offering Rider Switch

  • Magic Kingdom
    • The Barnstormer (35in)
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (40in)
    • Space Mountain (44in)
    • Splash Mountain (40in)
    • Stitch’s Great Escape (40in)
    • Tomorrowland Indy Speedway (32in)
    • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (38in)
  • Epcot
    • Frozen Ever After (no height restriction)
    • Mission: SPACE (44in)
    • Soarin’ (40in)
    • Test Track (40in)
  • Hollywood Studios
    • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (48in)
    • Star Tours (40in)
    • Tower of Terror (40in)
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
    • DINOSAUR (40in)
    • Expedition Everest (44in)
    • Kali River Rapids (38in)
    • Primeval Whirl (48in)

 

**If you want to know if a Rider Switch is an option on a ride, please ask a cast member.

 

Megan Thompson

Travel Agent

Are you ready for some Muggle Magic?

Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most immersive and impressive themed lands ever created.  It is no wonder that this area is very popular and always crowded.  In order to get the most out of the Wizarding World with the least amount of hassle, you must go in with a plan.  By following the steps below, you are sure to experience all that your Muggle heart desires without the aggravation of lines, crowds and excessive waiting.

 

Step 1 – Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Park 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Escape from Gringotts!

Congratulations!  You’ve been accepted into Hogwarts so now you must pick up all of your supplies.  Stepping into Diagon Alley is like stepping into the movie.  Never have I experienced such a feeling of being a part of the story.  You will want to spend some time here experiencing all of its beauty.  Do the attractions in the following order to get the most out of your time here:

  • Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
  • Purchase your interactive wand from Ollivanders and if you are lucky, your wand will choose you!  Interact and cast spells all over Diagon Alley. (Read more about the Wand Ceremony, HERE!)
  • Grab breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron before catching the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade.

 

Step 2 – Arrive in Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure Park 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Hogsmeade

You’ve made it to Hogsmeade and now you are ready to become a wizard!  Stepping off the Hogwarts Express, pause and take it all in.  The snow-topped buildings with the awe-inspiring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will be like heaven for muggles so make sure you get plenty of photos!  Explore Hogsmeade in the following order to make the most of your time:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Compete in the Triwizard tournament in Dragon Challenge (Use your Express Pass)
  • Hop on board a Hippogriff in Flight of the Hippogriff (Use your Express Pass)
  • Interact throughout Hogsmeade with your wand
  • Have lunch at Three Broomsticks (Learn more about Universal’s Dining Plan, HERE!)
  • Grab a Butterbeer from one of the carts: regular, frozen or ice cream. Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 

Other tips and tricks to make the most of your visit to the Wizarding World 

  • Stay at a Universal on-site hotel to get early entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  For an even more convenient experience, add Universal Express Pass to your tickets or Unlimited Express Pass free with your stay at one of the three premier Universal resort properties.
  • Make sure you have a Park-To-Park Ticket to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, you are sure to fall in love with this area of the Universal theme parks.  Take your time, tour with patience and enjoy your journey into this magical world. For more information or to book your Universal Orlando vacation, contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist.

Julie Stewart

Travel Specialist