Disney is Back and Better Than Ever! #takealook

Lynn Jones-Turpin Hollywood Studies - Star Wars Rise of the Resistance

By Lynn Jones-Turpin – With only a two hour hour drive down I-95 South, Walt Disney World is a quick getaway for the entire family! The Urban Traveler recently cleared her schedule for an entertaining tour of the most magical place on earth! The scheduled itinerary included daily tours of Disney’s celebrated parks and resorts.

First stop was Epcot to engage in Topiaries 101. What is a topiary?  Google says: “Topiary is the horticultural practice of training perennial plants by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and subshrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, whether geometric or fanciful. The term also refers to plants which have been shaped in this way,” So when you see Minnie and Mickey welcoming you to Epcot, and the Dragons on the EPCOT river – those are topiaries designed at Disney or imported from Japan and Africa!  Wow! “We were able to reimagine the dragons, which weighs 5000 lbs. This year we wanted to innovate and bring the characters personalities to life, it’s a lot of fun. This year I placed some materials and assisted with daily maintenance,” smiled tour guide Tray from Sylvania, GA.

Karla Baker (Chicago, Illinois) General Manager for Merchandising at Epcot

EPCOT spans more than 300 acres and is twice the size of Magic Kingdom! Currently keeping Epcot guests company is the Flower and Garden Festival, running through July 5th.  Inside Epcot is The American Adventure host pavilion where we networked with Disney executives for a taste of the festival’s cuisine – ‘we enjoyed the freshest flavors of spring – on the plate and in the glass,’ savorying sweet bites and local ingredients of a rotating seasonal menu from Epcots outdoor kitchens. Greeted by our host Annette Gibbs (Disney Media), Joel Kaiman (TJM Communications) and of course Disney staff members who make the magic happen! We heard from Disney staff members Karla Baker (Chicago, Illinois) General Manager for Merchandising at Epcot, “How can you not come to work every day and not be excited and be involved in the amazing transformation in our parks and bring these characters to life, Epcot is celebrating the Flower and Garden Festival and this summer starting July 14th is the Epcot International Wine and Food Festival. There’s a lot to do at Epcot and now we are looking forward to our fiftieth (50th) celebration.” Wow! 50 years old – Mickey and Minnie are looking better than good! #staytunedformore Also on the front line was Mike another Chicago native, “My 23 years tells how much fun I’m having, the experience, the guests, our resorts, our parks, it’s a phenomenal opportunity, the transformation of Epcot, new ideas, fireworks and more!”

Oh, there was more magic awaiting the Urban Traveler on the grounds of The Grand Floridian Resort, where you’re welcomed into a grand lobby, a sand filled beach and cocktails at the eclectic Enchanted Rose lounge, dinner inside the Grand Floridian and of course small bites inside the Gasparilla Island Grill for light and late night tapas. If you blink you might see Goofy ride by on his golf cart!

As the sun shone on the Grand Floridian we embarked on a morning tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Attraction Experience to experience the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Oh now the Minnie and Mickey railway was better than cool!  The vibrant colors of Minnie and Mickey’s characters came to life as you intertwined into their magical world of surprises! Next we were ‘zipped away on a zany adventure through a cartoon universe crammed with surprises!’   The first attraction experience – ‘Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – to Fly the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” on a thrilling mission” – and that we did!

The galaxy and the force of the storm troopers were with us as we joined the Resistance in an unforgettable battle against the First Order on this exciting ride.’ It was amazing!!!!!!! The entire star wars galaxy blasted upon – we could not be stopped!   HBCU Alcorn State graduate Kenny, gladly responded, “This is one of the most technological attractions we’ve ever built at Disney. This is where our Disney imagineers’ come in, they are the experts, they build it, design it and we bring it home for the guests. It’s my job that we operate it and ensure that guests have an exceptional experience and be immersed in the experience.”  I have to agree that the details of the Rise of the Resistance actual spaceships and characters are built to perfection which includes a hologram to import you to the next level!  To complete the adventure, we headed around the corner to ‘Build our own droid at Black Spire Outpost’s industrial depot – quite interesting, we had to power of R2D2 for his trip back to Jacksonville!

If you haven’t been to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) go catch a glimpse of all the shops, stores, restaurants and entertainment, House of Blues, The Edison, Sosa Family Cigars Co. and Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew, and The Edison where head Chef Deaundra Rolle spoke of her secret sauce and captivated us with tales of her Bahamian roots and how her style of cooking has made her a legend in Orlando!

Now this is only a weekend excursion, your family’s best bet is to purchase park hopper tickets where you can engage the family with multiple daily park options. One that will keep you engaged is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, home of the Lion King, Kilimanjaro Safaris Set an open-air vehicle for a guided tour of an African savanna.

And the Avatar Flight of Passage, where we ‘Climbed atop a winged mountain banshee for a breathtaking 3D flight over Pandora’s otherworldly landscape’ For more visit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/animal-kingdom/pandora-world-of-avatar/ You have to see it to believe it!

Stopped off for lunch at Tiffin’s Restaurant where African cuisine and art is celebrated.

For more visit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/animal-kingdom/tiffins/?CMP=OKC-18069632_GM_WDW_dining_tiffinsrestaurant_NA

Know that Disney Parks and Resorts strictly follow Covid-19 guidelines. Entries to the parks are secure with contactless wristbands. Contactless apps are promoted for ordering food and beverages. Seniors can still request a formal menu. It’s best that you set up your Disney account which will provide you with all the necessary apps and tools to best service your trip. Disney prides itself on expedient customer service whether you are in the parks, at the resorts or on the property of Disney Springs. Disney World’s 50th Anniversary will soon mark an era of maintaining an image of family fun, relaxation, magical rides and attractions taking you to galaxy’s far, far away!

Also note that due to Covid-19 Fast Pass service has been suspended:

For more visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/fastpass-plus/

Prepare yourself for the next 50 years of Minnie and Mickey scattering magical moments to families around the world!

The magic awaits at: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

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