Category Archives: Reviews

Fun Blooms at 20th Annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

DSC_0785I was transported to Oz last weekend during a preview of the “Land of Oz” garden, grown especially for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival which kicked off officially on Wednesday.

The garden, a tribute to Oz the Great and Powerful (which debuted in theaters today), features a circus-like midway area complete with tents and games, a playground, floral yellow brick road, beautiful illuminated poppies, and of course, many photo opportunities along the way.

Yellow Brick Road Disney

The interactive children’s play zone is geared to kids ages 5-12 (or Oz obsessed adults like me) and is covered in Oz themed décor including the infamous hot air balloon.

Obviously, the Oz area was a highlight for me, but there are many more blooming festivities at this year’s Flower and Garden Festival.


Other highlights include the larger-than-life character topiaries, including the classic Fab Five character topiary at the entrance to Epcot. Other Whimsical Disney topiaries pop up throughout the world showcase including the Disney Princesses and other beloved characters planted near their country of origin.

New festival additions also include food-and-beverage Garden Marketplaces. Culinary creations are available at these stands that include Florida Fresh at World Showcase Promenade, Smokehouse Barbecue and Brew at American Adventure courtyard, Primavera Kitchen at Italy showcase, Hanami at Japan showcase, and eight others around the World Showcase Promenade.

Specialty libations include an assortment of new fun cocktails and treats, but the only one you really need to remember is the Dole Whip with Spiced Rum. Whaaaaat?! For those of you who haven’t had a Dole Whip, you need to get one immediately. This is a bold statement, but the Dole Whip might be my favorite dessert to eat in the parks. The non-alcholic version of these treats are served at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom and also within the Polynesian Resort at Captain Cook’s. (Stay tuned for my review of the spiced rum whip because that will be my first stop when I return to Epcot to experience the festival in full bloom!)

Throughout the 75-day garden party, guests can also enjoy classes with HGTV celebrity designers, daily hands-on gardening seminars and a Festival Center packed with events that offer innovative ideas, gardening know-how and design tips. The floral fun continues through May 19 and additional information is available by calling 407-W-DISNEY or visiting The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.Topiary Party with the Fab 5 and Daisy


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Tips for a Successful runDisney Marathon

mickeyrundisneyNow that I’m the proud owner of the highly coveted Princess Half Marathon Tiara Finisher Medal, I can confidently share what I learned to better prepare for the next big race. The Princess Half, which celebrated its 5th Anniversary this year, is one of seven annual runDisney races which include other athletic feats like the Tower of Terror 10 Miler and the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, both coming up this Fall. Interested in participating? Here are a few of my tips for a successful runDisney race!

  • It’s never too early to start training. Want to run like a princess next year? Start now! I was pushing it with my twelve week program. Running coach Jeff Galloway suggests a 22 week program for beginners and a 19 week program for more experienced runners. Information on his injury free training programs are available at
  • Pack extra running clothes. Themed races like the Disney Princess Half Marathon encourage costumes. In true princess spirit, my running costume was an homage to one of my favorite characters, Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I accidentally snagged my green leggings down the backside the night before. Oops. Running to the store for replacement activewear is not fun hours before the race. Also, practice running in your outfit before the big day to ensure there are no uncomfortable surprises.
  • Get plenty of sleep. This seems like it should be common sense, but I was watching the fireworks at Cinderella castle when I probably should have been in bed. Don’t get too caught up in the festivities! Plan accordingly and play in the parks earlier. Trust me, that Mickey wake-up call will come quick!
  • Eat a good breakfast. Again, this sounds obvious, but when you’re staying in a hotel and your pantry isn’t at your fingertips, you may not be able to reach for that bagel and peanut butter as easily as you’d think.
  • Train at a pace faster than the requirement. The minimum pace requirement was 16 miles per minute, but if you want to stop for photos with the characters, drink some water, stretch on the side of the road, or take a restroom break, you must make up that time in your race. When you wait in line for 20 minutes to take pictures with Jack Sparrow like I did, you have to play catch up on the course.
  • Have FUN. Seriously, you’re at the happiest place on Earth! Don’t beat yourself up for not running as fast as you wanted to – be proud of yourself for running at all. Don’t feel silly. Everyone is on the same page, sweaty and wearing a ridiculous costume. Embrace it! Your memories will be much happier that way.


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Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend


Last weekend I was one of over 20,000 tutu clad princesses who crossed the finish line at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.

In all, 36,000 royal runners competed in the festivities during the Princess Half Weekend which included Disney’s Royal Family 5K on Saturday in addition to last Sunday’s main event, a 13.1 mile race that coursed from Epcot through the Magic Kingdom and back.

Snow White

On the Friday prior to the race, I had the pleasure of attending the exclusive runDisney VIP Reception where I enjoyed munching on the most delicious Mickey shaped bites and mingling with very important runners like Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin (and my favorite celebrity, Snow White).

Sean Astin

The fun continued Saturday with Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo which took place in the convention center at one of my favorite resorts, the Southwestern themed Coronado Springs Resort. Fitness vendors of all kinds displayed their wares on site, selling everything from energy gels to Sparkle skirts.

The Expo also hosted a speaker series featuring celebrity runner appearances and seminars on training, racing, nutrition and the Princess Half Marathon course.

RunDisney Expo

Because I’m a complete and total dork, I just had to visit the Magic Kingdom to see Wishes, a fireworks show I’ve seen literally hundreds of times, before I could go to sleep on the eve of the race. To my surprise I also got to witness the new ten minute castle show, Let the Memories Begin, a shimmering spectacle of beautiful Disney art projected onto Cinderella Castle.

Disney Memories

My Mickey wake-up call came quickly after that, waking me up at 3:30 a.m. so I could be up in time for the last bus to the half marathon at 4 a.m.

My corral (the last one – ha!) finally reached the start line around 6:20 a.m. In true Disney style, a fireworks display kicked off the race for each pack of runners. The masters of magic created a truly uplifting atmosphere, with Disney characters and entertainment speckled throughout the course, and strategically placed DJs blasting inspiring music right when it was needed the most. At the half way mark they blared Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire.” Good call, Disney.

Disney also peppered the course with volunteers handing out water and holding inspirational signs. Words of encouragement were also shouted from the sidelines via the chEAR squad (my Mom included!), a group of family, friends, and spectators who followed the runners to different viewpoints throughout the course. One of my favorite signs read “Hello, complete stranger, I’m proud of you too.”

Here are a few of my favorite shots from race day:


























Among the sea of tiaras in the half marathon were all types of runners from Olympic champion Summer Sanders to a 94 year old princess who went the distance that day. Was I the fastest of them all? No, but I finished. And as a wise woman once said, even miracles take a little time.


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