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Frolicking in Florida at Christmastime! 

by David J. Cox

Does anyone do Christmas better than Disney? I think not!

Happy Holidays in Hollywood!

Hollywood Studios is one of my favorite Disney destinations to visit and I never miss a chance to go when I can. Everywhere you look there are special touches. Stores with decorations, Christmas wreaths and the Terminator statue with a Santa hat make the moniker Tinsel Town take on a whole new meaning!

As in most parks, a visitor must plan the day out in order to maximize the experience. Whenever here, and my son whole-heartedly agrees, the first stop must be Star Tours, the Star Wars themed ride. We visited years ago and were pleased to find out that the ride has been updated and revamped and boy I love that ride! It has all a fan could ask for – Darth Vader, spaceship battles, and C3P0 as a guide! Exiting the ride, visitors are greeted by a vast array of Star Wars merchandise, including build-your-own lightsaber and droid stations, along with action figures, Disney-only toys and other goodies.

Our next stop was the Muppet Theatre. Dressed up for the season with red and white tinsel, bows and more, the Theatre show took on a seasonal tone. Kermit, Miss Piggy and all the other Muppets put on a great show. My favorites are Statler and Waldorf with their comments from the Balcony…

The Tower Of Terror was being built the last time I was here, so it was a treat to see the final product! The mood is set by the decrepit hotel halls passengers walk through to get to the elevator…to Terror! Sitting in rows, the elevator goes up in jolts, and then falls quickly at least 10 stories at once. The freefall sensation is amazing and with the elevator goes up and down several times, it is a blast!

The show we watched next was great – the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – with stunts, explosions, and lots of action! The immense set has temple ruins and a bad guy base, and the action never stops as Indiana Jones makes a grand entrance to find the golden idol. Indy and Marion battle bad guys, leap around and duck as bullets fly and a moving vehicle bursts into flames! It was a highlight for my daughter!

The last ride of the day was Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, a great roller coaster that is famous for blasting off from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds! I like two places on a roller coaster, the front seat or the very back of the train. We were lucky enough to get the last row for this unique ride. The blast off is all that it is rumored to be, and you better be ready for it!

As we had plans, we sadly had to cut short our visit…but, “we’ll be back!”

Sleuths dinner theatre

I think what we enjoyed most about this activity is the intimate set and dining room. Maxed out at 100, the layout and set-up were well thought out and created. The staff is really friendly, well managed and both the service and food are great.

Check in is not part of the show, but there is a boutique with mystery novels, novelties, toys and “detective” magnifying glasses. Guests can also enjoy a pre-show drink at the bar.

We are informed that the meal will be taking place in a small inn that is under new management, as the old management has recently…disappeared!

Once called to dinner by the staff of the Inn, the audience/guests are led into the dining room of the ‘Inn’ where a small stage is set with various furniture representing an inn. We are introduced to the main characters during a set performance piece with some crowd participation improv thrown in here and there.

The fun begins as dinner is served and the Constable introduces the murder investigation. The show was very funny, and the actor playing the Constable was incredible. He cross-dressed for the character and was definitely the star of the show. The cast was talented enough to keep up with him for most of the night, and the show was a great success – so great that only 25% of the crowd guessed the murderer!

The show is silly and there is a lot of laugh out loud moments – it is a show that you make of it what you put into it!

In this show, my son was chosen to be the Constable’s assistant, placed in charge of evidence and brought on stage a few times. A thrill for the whole family!

I highly recommend this great family-friendly show!

Magic Kingdom

Well, the crowds were something else at the height of Christmas, but true to Disney form, the crowd management is phenomenal and the day went quite smoothly. Of all the parks, it is the Magic Kingdom where Christmas truly comes to life! Throughout the park, the signs of the season are in evidence.

Christmas trees, tinsel and the colors of Christmas are everywhere. Even the main characters of Disney are in the mood to celebrate, with Pluto in Santa red and Goofy dressed as Santa himself! Mickey and Minnie are decked in their finest as well, as evidenced during the daily parades down Main Street.

We knew our targets in advance so we could navigate the crowds to get to them. It may be an old standard, but Magic Mountain was the number one ride on our list. The speed and lightshow through the darkened rail route is still exciting and thrilling! Always a great ride.
The Splash Mountain ride was another hit, the slow, long, twisty ride through caves filled with great animatronics, as was the age-old favorite Pirates of the Carribean, though my daughter did ask where was Elizabeth, Jack Sparrow and Will?

Funny enough, my favorite time was climbing aboard the steam train that runs on recycled oil and waste and is a great way to see Disney World.

Medieval Times Dinner Theatre

And so, ‘twas our Knight that doth won the night!

I have wanted to see the Medieval Times show since I lived in Toronto in the early 1990s, and the wait was worth it! From the moment you arrive, if you let yourself, you can be swept back through time to the Dark Ages, walking through the Medieval village that has been built. Through the kitchen and into the black-smithy, past the stables and into the museum of torture tools!

Real world collides with commerce as you enter the main building, as there are many counters with merchandise ranging from 50 cent flags to 200 dollar dresses and thousand dollar swords. Needless to say I wanted a sword, but had to settle for a $30 foam replica…

Dinner is announced by trumpet and the stalls around the arena-sized field theatre fill quickly guided by the well-trained staff. The arena feels like a hockey rink! Huge and oval, the entrance of the knights is something to behold!

As they enter, the Medieval Meal is served. A great twist is that there are no utensils, so patrons devour the meals with their hands. Chicken and ribs with an apple turnover and garlic bread…Truly ‘twas fare for the masses!

The knights are then charged by the King to entertain us!
The next hour is filled with jousting, swordfights and horsemanship. The applause are often as thunderous as the fights. Well choreographed and executed, the show is thrilling and really captures the feel of a medieval festival!

And the best part? Our section’s knight won the tournament!

Epcot for New Years Eve

Talk about Spectacular!
Our visit was great, and quite different from years ago when our kids were young. This time around the kids were old enough to enjoy the bigger rides, and we started with one of my favourites, Mission: Space!

This great ride offers riders the sensation of a blastoff, flight and awkward landing on Mars. It can be claustrophobic, as you are placed into a small flight capsule then spun and bumped around as you launch into space. My kids loved it, and so did I!

The best ride at Epcot has to be the Chevrolet Test Track. Revamped and beefed up over the last few years, this one-of-a-kind crazy thrill ride! Sitting in a convertible, you test various road conditions, climbing power, brake reactions, hot and cold conditions until the vehicle bursts outside onto a race course, where it reaches an exhilarating 100 miles an hour! After, you can continue the hands-on exhibits with you in a commercial and interactive car design activity.

Spaceship Earth is another classic Disney animatronics ride with a time-travelling theme and a spectacular climax – a starscape that will impress even a jaded CGI fan. The kids enjoyed the “Future You” segment, where you pick your future sports, clothes and job – fun stuff.

The rides and attractions kept us busy until the fireworks started. Now I have seen fireworks on Canada Day across Canada, during the Symphony of Fire and I can honestly say that the New Years Eve fireworks display at Epcot is something to behold!

Disney still has the magic, for sure!


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