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Preview Epcot for Flower and Garden Festival

The 2010 International Flower and Garden Festival has begun at Epcot. The World Showcase has dozens of entertainment choices on normal days, so all of the extra displays and activities are mind boggling. All the more reason to know as much as you can before you arrive.

Here's a map of the west side of the World Showcase. Click to see a large version. Want the entire map? Check out Mouse Map, the ultimate Disney World map guide.

Just Launched: Mini Mouse Map

The new Mini Mouse Map passed its field test and is ready for production.

Magic Kingdom Map Update: Visit Tinker Bell and the Disney Fairies in Mickey's Toontown Fair

Time to update your Magic Kingdom map! You can visit Tinker Bell and her fairy friends at a new character greeting area in Mickey's Toontown Fair, one of the best places for character interaction at Walt Disney World.

The Imagineers have sprinkled their pixie dust over the Toontown Hall of Fame, nestled between Mickey's and Minnie's houses in Toontown ... and created a new greeting area. Guests are "transported" to a magical forest called “Pixie Hollow,” a special place deep in the heart of Never Land.

Isn't Disney magic wonderful?

Tinker Bell (of course, you recognize her in the center of this photo) is most famous at Peter Pan's pal in the 1953 Disney animated classic. Since then, she's been the hostess for many Disney television specials and for “flying” above the Disney theme parks. Tink is joined inside Pixie Hollow by four fairy friends: Iridessa (left), a light fairy; Rosetta (second from left), a garden fairy; Silvermist (second from right), a water fairy; and Fawn (right), an animal fairy.

So it looks like taking "the second star on the right" to reach Never Land just got a little bit easier... thanks to this last update to the Disney World maps!

How your Disney World map reflects the magic of theme parks

This very cool article in the Orlando Sentinel, Talent hub for theme parks lies in Orlando-area, really echoes what makes Walt Disney World vacations so special.... It really is all about the people ... or cast members, in Disneyspeak.

The article talks about the number of businesses focused on creating themed entertainment that have sprung up in Florida. And it hits the nail on the head with this quote:
The industry's unique aspects require not just unique skills but a special frame of mind, said Jerry Aldrich, a former Disney executive and now president of Amusement Industry Consulting in Orlando. Those unique aspects, he said, show up in something as complicated as coordinating the ride systems, themes and special effects needed to create an attraction such as the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man -- or in something as simple as knowing where to place the bathrooms, or how many toilets to install.
Disney folks consistently prove they have that mindset by building and operating the kind of vacation destinations that makes guests want to return again and again. So when you're studying your Disney World map as you plan your next vacation, take a few minutes to notice how perfectly the park is arranged... the flow of attractions, restaurants, shops, entertainment, even the restrooms ... so that you can get the most of your Disney vacation!

Tampa Bay announces training camp dates at Disney's Wide World of Sports

Woo hoo! It's time to check your Disney World map for the location of Disney's Wide World of Sports.... The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just announced their training camp schedule at the sports complex. Read the details here: Bucs Report Sports - from Blogs

The first day of training camp is July 26, with sessions planned on most days through August 13. Note this:
Certain practices are open to the public, but others will be moved inside a tent and closed to the public. In addition, the Bucs will hold their first ever night practice session on August 7 from 7:30 to 9:10 p.m. The night session will be open to the public.
If you'll be visiting Disney World during this time, expect larger than usual crowds at Wide World of Sports. It might be tough to find a parking space, so you might plan to take the bus from Disney's Hollywood Studios... that's usually the only bus service to the sports complex. Ask for transportation details at your Disney hotel!

By the way, the Wide World of Sports is located on the southern edge of Walt Disney World. Look on your Disney World map near just south of Disney's Pop Century.

Epcot Map Highlight: Flower and Garden Festival

The 15th Annual Flower and Garden Festival is in full swing at Epcot, one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World in Florida. I've marked by Disney World map with my favorite features of the Flower and Garden Festival -- the topiaries and the butterfly garden.

Since this year's theme is "Fun in the Sun," all of the topiaries have an outdoor flavor. (Wait... I think I'm mixing metaphors there. Oh, well...) Here's a picture of Mickey with some seashells. He's standing next to Minnie and Goofy at the entrance of the park. By the way, Goofy is the largest topiary this year.... 14 feet!

Other topiaries can be found just north and south of the Dancing Fountain, which is at the center of Future World. And of course, there are more displays around the lagoon in the World Showcase. In all, there are 70 topiaries.

My other favorite addition at Epcot for the Flower and Garden Festival is Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden. It's a screened-in gazebo just south of Mouse Gear, between the main walkway and Test Track. The gazebo is 40 feet in diameter and houses 10 different species of butterflies. It's jam packed with lots of beautiful flowers -- plumbago, passion flower, honeysuckle and much more.

Just a little warning ... The butterfly garden can get very crowded. I prefer to wait until there are no strollers inside, then take my time browsing around. Early morning is the best time avoid the crowds.

Here are a few interesting tidbits about the Flower and Garden Festival:
  • The Disney folks say there are 30 million blooms in all on display!
  • At least 25 different plants are used to create the topiaries.
  • More than 15 floral, herbal and spice ingredients of 10 popular perfumes are on display in the Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion. Guerlain, the perfume maker featured at the pavilion.
  • Every evening, music from the 60s and 70s is featured at special (albeit short) "Flower Power" concerts at the American Gardens Theater.
Visit this special page on the Disney World web site to download the Flower and Garden Festival Guide.

No matter when you visit Walt Disney World, be sure take along your Disney World map. There's always something to explore! If you're lucky enough to be traveling before June 1, plan to spend plenty of time at Epcot enjoying the "Fun in the Sun" at the Flower and Garden Festival.

Disney World Map Special Edition: Mickey's Pirate and Princess Party

I'll admit it …. In my collection of Disney World maps, the Pirate and Princess Party map of the Magic Kingdom has a special place. I was very excited to see that Disney is adding more party dates this spring. Well, technically, it's really late winter, but the beautiful Florida weather makes it feel like spring already.

So exactly what is the Pirate and Princess Party? Basically, Disney closes the Magic Kingdom early, then re-opens for admission with a separate ticket for a few more hours. Only the most popular attractions are open, with dining available at a few popular locations. What makes the Pirates and Princess Party special are the extra activities that combine rowdiness and elegance…

First is the special parade … Seeing the pirate ship with Captain Jack Sparrow surrounded by dancing pirate is devilishly fun. The princesses and their princes make striking figures on dramatic floats. Even Tinker Bell makes an appearance down at ground level, rather than flying overhead.

There's a special version of Wishes, the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks display. Broader and wilder than the regular version of Wishes, (title)

The treasure spots around the park are a nice treat, even if I'd prefer more beads and baubles rather than candy. Interactive shows and activities are located in each land… Learn how to be a pirate or dance with the royal court.

Because it is a separate ticket and NOT included with your Magic Your Way ticket, the crowds are typically much smaller. The party typically runs till midnight, which affects how you can get the most out of your trip.

If you have little ones, plan ahead by going back to your hotel room for a long afternoon nap. Return for the evening party well rested, and plan to sleep in the next morning. In other words, don't plan an early morning breakfast on the morning after the party.

For anyone else, my suggestion is to arrive later or chill out during the first hour or two of the party. If the park is crowded, the odds are good that it will become less crowded as families who didn't plan ahead (and didn't have naps) head home when their kids get tired. You'll find the lines typically get shorter as the hour gets later.

When you enter the park, be sure to pick up the special Pirate and Princess Party version of the Magic Kingdom map and check the schedule. It's definitely a map that you will treasure!

Copyright 2007-2010 Anne S. Easterling. All rights reserved. This blog is an independent publication and is not officially affiliated with Walt Disney World or The Disney Company. Visit Mouse Map: The Ultimate Disney World Map Guide for more help planning your Disney World vacation.