Dates & Menus Announced for 8th Annual WDW Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic

WDW Swan Dolphin Food Wine Classic

Without a doubt, one of the events in Orlando that I look forward to each year. The two day event is full of music, fun and great food! Each of the restaurants located on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin property showcase their best and each sampling leaves you wishing for a full sized portion, and makes you want to visit the restaurant as soon as you can.

I always like to use this event as an opportunity to meet up with old friends, sip a few cocktails, enjoy delicious treats and listen to great music. It’s an event that everyone should experience at least once. I know that once you go – you’ll want to be sure to be there every year!

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic will return for its eighth year Friday, October 27, and Saturday, October 28, with exciting new dishes debuting alongside returning festival favorites. Fans can now visit to view the 2017 food menu as well as book overnight packages and purchase tickets.

Highlights of the 2017 menu include featured items from the hotel’s signature restaurants: Kobe beef mini burgers with truffle aioli, Applewood smoked bacon and roma tomato chutney from The Fountain; seared Yellowfin Tuna salad from Todd English’s bluezoo; ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms, baby spinach and fennel sausage from Il Mulino Trattoria and oven-roasted beef ribeye with mashed potatoes and sauce bordelaise from Shula’s Steakhouse. Returning dishes include the popular dragon sushi roll from Kimonos and fish ‘n’ chips with sea salt and vinegar potato chips from Garden Grove.

Also returning this year will be Carnival Corner and Chinatown, offering specialty cuisine in immersive themed areas, as well as the Sunday Bubbles Brunch on Sunday, Oct. 29. Original dessert offerings will once again be served by World Champion Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard. For a full list of current menu offerings, please visit

The Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic offers guests unlimited tastings at more than 50 stations featuring culinary selections from the hotel’s award-winning restaurants and wine from more than 30 wineries amidst a festive backdrop of live entertainment on the hotel’s scenic causeway. Upgraded ticket options allow guests to enjoy access to a beer garden featuring a wide selection of craft beers and Oktoberfest-inspired cuisine. The event also includes hands-on seminars with the hotel’s chefs and certified beverage experts.

Overnight and multiple-night package options are available for the eighth-annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic and can be booked by phone at 1-888-828-8850:

  • One-night packages start at $424, and include room accommodations and two tickets to the outdoor festival (seminar tickets and beer garden tickets may be added for an additional fee)
  • Two-night packages start at $824, and include room accommodations and two tickets to the outdoor festival for both nights (seminar tickets and beer garden tickets may be added for an additional fee)

Individual ticket options are also available for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic and can be purchased at (pricing is inclusive of tax and service fees):

  • Advance-purchase, event-only tickets to enjoy unlimited tastings on the causeway are $115 per person
  • Upgraded tickets, including unlimited tastings on the causeway and access to the beer garden, are $140 per person

With 17 restaurants and lounges, and a distinguished culinary and beverage team, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel continually earns national recognition for its food and beverage program. The hotel features more than 70 certified wine sommeliers and 1,400 wine selections.

For the latest information about the event, guests can visit, like or call 1-800-227-1500.

About the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

In the heart of the Walt Disney World Resort, the award-winning Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort resides amongst the greatest theme parks and attractions in Central Florida. The resort is located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and nearby Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Magic Kingdom Park. Guests can discover 17 world-class restaurants and lounges, sophisticated guest rooms with Westin Heavenly Beds and the luxurious Mandara Spa. The resort features five pools, two health clubs, tennis, nearby golf, complimentary transportation throughout theWalt  Disney World Resort, the extended park hours benefit, where each day, one of the four Walt Disney World Theme Parks is open extra time for guests to enjoy select attractions (Valid Theme Park admission and Resort ID required) and Disney FastPass+ service, where guests can reserve up to 3 select theme park experiences up to 60 days in advance of their visit. The resort can be reached at 800-227-1500, or through Facebook at

Did You Know These Secrets of WDW’s Cinderella Castle?

Cinderella Castle Secrets

Cinderella Castle Secrets

Most Walt Disney World® Resort fans are well aware of the suite located in Cinderella Castle that is used by very few. It is used by celebrities, by Make A Wish recipients and sometimes a night in the suite is even given away as a prize. Many also know about the “Kiss Goodnight” where you can actually hear Roy Disney. If you stay around the castle long enough around park closing time, you might hear a message which features audio from Roy’s dedication speech set to the lights going off around the castle. There are a few lesser known secrets about the castle that many may not know and here are just a few.

♦ There are three (3) elevators in the castle. One elevator goes up to Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant to accommodate guests in wheelchairs; another is used to move food from kitchen to kitchen; and, the third is used by cast and crew to reach the underground Utilidoors, as well as those who are lucky enough to stay in that special suite.

♦ Each holiday season brings beautiful light displays that make Cinderella Castle look like Elsa’s from Frozen. The castle is covered with over 200,000 LED lights that are so efficient they only use about the same amount of energy as a clothes dryer.

Cinderella Castle Secrets

♦ Take a really good look at the clock on the front of the castle! It has “IIII” instead of “IV.” This wasn’t a mistake. The Imagineers were trying to be true to the times. The “IV” roman numeral wasn’t used until after the Colonial Period, and since Cinderella Castle is based on a time centuries before that, they couldn’t use a “IV.”

Cinderella Castle Secrets

♦ Who remembers the Imagineers turning the castle into a giant birthday cake for the Magic Kingdom’s 25th birthday? It took 400 gallons of pink paint to cover the castle. Included were 26 candles ranging from 20 to 40 feet in height. Also included were massive gumdrops, lifesavers, lollipops, and other goodies. The castle stayed like this for 15 months starting in 1996.

♦ A room directly beneath the castle controls almost everything in the park! What controls the animatronics at The Hall of Presidents? Or the light shows at night? Or the stage curtains at Country Bear Jamboree? A small room underneath the castle does. The system is both brilliant and complicated, as it controls hundreds of Animatronic characters throughout the park all at the same time.

♦ Why is the castle only 189 feet tall? At the time of construction, Florida required every building above 200 feet tall to have a red blinking light atop it for the safety of passing airplanes. There’s no way a red blinking light would look good on top of a medieval castle, so the Imagineers made it shorter and used “forced perspective” to make it appear taller.

♦ Sadly, after the events of September 11, the park wanted to make changes to ensure guest safety. On that day the parks were evacuated because it was a potential target for attacks due to large crowds. Now the entire park is a no-fly zone for added protection. Cinderella Castle, a landmark, is largely the reason why the government worked with Disney to make this law.

♦ Almost daily during the summer it storms for a good thirty minutes and with summer storms comes lightning. Because of this there are many carefully placed lightning rods throughout the park to ensure guest’s safety. The biggest one at the Magic Kingdom is Cinderella Castle! The Epcot ball is also a lightning rod, and the Sorcerer’s hat that used to be part of Hollywood Studios was one as well.

Cinderella Castle has 27 beautiful towers, however original designs included two other towers. The two additional towers would not have been visible from any direction, so Imagineers decided to cut them from the final plans for construction. However, each tower is numbered 1 through 29 but towers 13 and 17 are missing!

♦ The moat surrounding the castle contains 3.37 million gallons of water. That’s enough to fill more than five Olympic Swimming Pools.

♦ The castle’s design was inspired by 10 other castles throughout multiple countries including Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, Fontainebleau, Versailles and the châteaux of Chenonceau, Pierrefonds, Chambord and Chaumont.

♦ Hidden inside one of the flags on top of one of the top towers is a transmitter that coordinates the parades and parade routes.

♦ Despite it’s size and incredible detail, Disney’s team managed to erect the castle within 18 months.

Cinderella Castle Secrets

♦ Designed by Imagineer Dorothea Redmond, the five-pane mural set inside Cinderella Castle contains over 300,000 pieces of Italian glass in EACH pane.

So there you have – some lesser known Cinderella Castle secrets! Do you know any secrets about the castle you would like to share?

Don’t forget about these previously shared secrets:

Some Really Cool and Interesting Secrets About Epcot

Shhhh! It’s a Secret! Secrets of WDW’s Magic Kingdom

Secrets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Secrets of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

10 Secrets of Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay

Inexpensive Treasures ~ One-Of-A-Kind Beads from African Outpost in Epcot

Beads African Outpost Epcot

I make sure to get something new on each trip! Sustainable and stylish with each bead hand rolled from recycled Disney maps and other Disney paper products. The kiosk is colorful and the price can’t be beat! Prices range from $7 to $20 depending on the item you purchase.

Each bead is made by hand in Africa by artisans which makes each bead unique. The best part of it all ~ 100% of the proceeds from the sale of all of this jewelry go back to the men and women who create them. 

Beads African Outpost EpcotOutdated Disney paper items are sent to Uganda, through cooperation with the non-profit organization Bead For Life. There, villagers literally hand-roll the recycled paper into lovely, waterproof beads that are then made into jewelry, and sent back to Disney to be sold.

Beads African Outpost Epcot

Even the bag your purchase comes in is made from recycled Disney paper.

Beads African Outpost Epcot

They’re beautiful. They’re affordable. Your purchase spreads the Disney magic by helping others to create a better life for themselves and their families.  And….you’ll have a piece of the Disney parks with you wherever you go!

Some Really Cool and Interesting Secrets About Epcot

Epcot Secrets

EPCOT is the second of the four parks built at Walt Disney World® Resort. It opened as EPCOT Center on October 1, 1982, consists of 300 acres and is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. The acronym stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. It is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, technological innovation and international culture. Many people think of EPCOT as a permanent World’s Fair.

Many Disney lovers wonder if there a system of tunnels under EPCOT similar to the utilidors at the Magic Kingdom. Well, sort of! There is a tunnel under EPCOT. In Future World, a U-shaped tunnel stretches 700 feet. It starts at the north end of Innoventions East, curves under Spaceship Earth and ends at the north end of Innoventions West. The tunnel is used for deliveries to Future World shops and restaurants. It is not part of or connected to the elaborate utilidor system of the Magic Kingdom.

When you are riding the vehicles inside Spaceship Earth, you are not seeing the inside of the silver-faceted geosphere. Spaceship Earth is actually composed of two separate spheres, one inside the other. The facade of the outer sphere is positioned two feet away from the inner sphere by 467 four-inch-diameter aluminum hubs. 

Test Track is the longest and fastest ride in Walt Disney World. The cars travel almost a mile and reach speeds of 65 miles per hour and hit the curve at a 50 degree angle. Each car is designed to last one million miles. Each car is equipped with six braking systems. And while there are four visible wheels on each car, they actually have a total of 22 wheels. Each vehicle is controlled by three on-board computers.

On Mission: Space, if you hit all of the switches and dials at the same time, Gary Sinise will come over the speaker and tell you to cut it out.

At the old Sea Base Alfa in the Living Seas (before we welcomed Nemo in 2006) the beams inside were interesting to see. The people who worked on building the attraction wanted to leave something behind, so the letters and numbers meant something special to each one who helped construct the building. I’ll have to check next time I visit to see if any of these are still visible. When you leave the building, notice the overhang coming out is very large so that your eyes have time to readjust to the sunlight.

On the Living with the Land boat ride, be sure to look at the address on the mailbox in front of the farm house – it reflects the year that Epcot opened.

At the top of The Land Pavilion is a VIP room used by the former sponsor, Kraft. You can see the windows of the lounge from the lobby of the pavilion right above the Garden Grill Restaurant. If you look up during the rainforest and farmhouse scenes on the Living with the Land boat ride you will see it too! 

If you stand under Spaceship Earth when it’s raining, you won’t get wet. The structure has a special drainage system designed to collect rainwater, funnel it through the support structure and let it run off into the park’s lagoon.

On Soarin’ when you board flight number 5505 – Soarin’ debuted in Epcot on May 5, 2005. Most numbers in Walt Disney World have some sort of hidden meaning.

In Future World there is a courtyard which contains Inventor’s Circle. Inventor’s Circle is a representation of mankind’s greatest achievements throughout history. Surrounding the innermost circle is a tribute to some of most important scientists and pioneers in human history including Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Sir Isaac Newton. From there circles mark huge breakthroughs in discoveries, including the wheel, the printing press, the telephone, the world wide web, and more. 

If you walk around the entire World Showcase lagoon, from China to Canada, you will be walking a total distance of 1.25 miles.

When World Showcase was originally built, there was space left for 10 additional countries. Norway and Morroco were added, leaving room for 8 more. Proposed Pavilions and/or attractions that were never built include: 

  • ISRAEL PAVILION – In 1980, the State of Israel signed a deal to officially become part of Epcot. The proposed Israel Pavilion would have featured a menorah in the center of the courtyard, along with archaeological artifacts from The Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv. Due to possible security issues and boycotts, the Pavilion wasn’t built. Still, Israel was featured in an exhibit at the Millennium Pavilion from 1999 to 2001. It featured a simulator-movie ride called Journey to Jerusalem, a virtual tour of historic holy sites.
  • MT. FUJI ROLLER COASTER – This ride was planned for the Japan Pavilion but it was thrown out not long after it was suggested thanks to protests by Eastman Kodak, the sponsor of the Journey into Imagination ride. Kodak didn’t take kindly to a ride sharing the name of their biggest competitor, Fujifilm.
  • BULLET TRAIN – All aboard would stand in a Japanese simulated bullet train, looking out through the phony windows while taking a gander at all the fake scenery of Japan’s historic sites.
  • IRAN PAVILION – Hop on a ride through Persian history inside a replica of Golestan Palace. The Iran Pavilion was called off when the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979.
  • SOVIET UNION PAVILION – Developed in the 1990’s, this location would have featured recreations of St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square. The proposed area had two rides: a sled journey through the Russian scenery, and a ride-through attraction based on Russia’s famous folk tale The Fool and the Fish

The concrete paths around the lagoon are red – this technique makes the grassy areas look greener.

Walt Disney Imagineers often use a technique called forced perspective. An optical illusion, forced perspective is used in the parks to make things look bigger or smaller. The American Adventure Pavilion is designed to look like a three story building. but is actually five stories tall. Over in the Canada Pavilion the Hotel du Canada building appears to be five stories tall, when in fact it is only three.

The World Showcase is a great place to learn about other cultures. There are two museums, hidden in plain sight, that most guests pass right by.The first is a Viking museum which houses an authentic Viking sword that is over 1,000 years old. The museum in Morocco is easy to miss, Most don’t realize its there at all. The Gallery of Arts and History in Morocco displays works of art. 

When passing the African Outpost, be sure to stop and open some of the crates. You may get a little squirt!

Why do we go to the second floor to watch the American Adventure show? Because the presidents and other figures that you see during the performance are all housed on hidden platforms that are stored underneath the audience’s seats.

Take a really good look at the pictures on the walls inside the American Adventure. The picture hanging in the left corner when you enter the rotunda is a painting of a World War II era B-17 bomber. If you stand on the gray strip of tiles on the floor in front of it and walk backwards and forwards, the plane appears to swivel and follow you.

Have you ever noticed the statue on your right as you enter the Japan Pavilion area? It was a gift from the government of Japan when the Magic Kingdom opened. It was later moved to Epcot.

The Japanese pagoda has five stories. Each represents one of the elements that Buddhists believe make up everything in the universe – in ascending order: earth, water, fire, wind and sky.

Take a look at the rocks in both Canada and Japan when the the Illuminations show is about to begin. The top of some of them will open, revealing sound and lighting equipment.

There are three totem poles in the Canada Pavilion. Only the one on the left is real. It was carved by Tsimshian Indian carver David Boxley, and weighs approximately 700 pounds. The other two totem poles are made of fiberglass.

The trees in Canada are replaced when they grow too big. Also, the plants at Canada change with the seasons, to simulate the seasons in Canada.  White in winter, gold and red in autumn, etc.

Look towards the back of the courtyard in the Germany Pavilion, and you’ll notice a clock. Every hour, a wooden boy and girl emerge from the clock and twirl.

Walk to the back wall in the Germany Pavilion. Knock on it, and you’ll notice a very hollow sound. The wall covers an area that was originally intended to host the never-built Rhine River Cruise boat ride that would take guests on a boat ride through the German countryside. The main entrance to the ride would have been located at the back of the Sommerfest Outdoor Cafe.

When looking at the train set in Germany, look at the church on the side of the bridge. Over the doorway are four hidden Mickeys. Can you spot any other hidden Mickeys in the train set?

In the Italy Pavilion, look for little red buttons located close to the fountains behind the shops. If you push them, water sprays out.

The carvings on the sides of the pyramid in the Mexico Pavilion were not originally there. They were added later after it was realized that small children liked to climb the step-like walls.

Most of the pavilions in World Showcase are lit up as part of the Illuminations show each night, but Morocco isn’t. The temple remains dark since lighting it would violate religious beliefs.

Look at the mosaic tiles in the Morocco Pavilion. Each mosaic has at least one flawed tile in it because beliefs dictate that only Allah can create something that is perfect.

When Morocco was asked to join World Showcase, the King was so excited, he sent his own men to Orlando to build it and he also paid for the construction. It cost Disney nothing to build. Every year the King of Morocco sends craftsmen to touch-up and repair the Pavilion, still free of charge to Disney.

There is a gold prayer room in Morocco that was included for the Cast Members and is open to the public.

The roof of the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in the Norway Pavilion has real grass growing on it. Disney Horticulture Cast Members climb onto the structure to maintain it.

If a bird were to land on top of the France Pavilion’s Eiffel tower, it would spoil the illusion of height. The tower is wider at the bottom and narrower at the top, so any bird perched on it would look enormous. Disney uses natural bird deterrents to scare them away.The Eiffel tower is the only structure in the World Showcase that cannot be reached by the general public.

Retired Magic

Photo Credit-TouringPlans.Com – Gene Duncan, photographer

Diners in Chefs de France used to be treated to an unexpected visit from a small, animatronic Remy. Remy would visit with guests, interact with them and respond to their questions and comments.

There are iconic phone booths in the U.K. pavilion that had real working phone numbers. Anyone could call and talk to whatever guest answered. At some point in 2013, dialing the numbers would only result in a busy signal or a ‘this call can not be completed as dialed’ message.

Don’t forget about these secrets at some of the other parks:

Shhhh! It’s a Secret! Secrets of WDW’s Magic Kingdom

Secrets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Secrets of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

10 Secrets of Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay

You Won’t Want to Miss Pandora – The World of Avatar – #VisitPandora

Pandora World Avatar Animal Kingdom

I was recently invited to a media preview of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It seems like we have been waiting for this new land to open for the longest time and now the opening is right around the corner – May 27!

If you want to fly on the back of a banshee, set sail through a bioluminescent jungle or walk through a floating mountain, you will get to do all of it when you visit Pandora! From the minute you cross the bridge into this new land, you are completely engulfed and immersed into the experience. The creative Disney minds have worked their magic once again to make you feel as if you in the middle of the experience. The scenery – in all directions – is stunning. 

Pandora World Avatar Animal Kingdom

Depending on your location or where you stand, the massive floating mountains seem to change in appearance. Seem to take you to a totally different locale.

Before heading to experience the new attractions, Na’vi River Journey and Avatar-Flights of Passive, you can spend quite a bit of time just walking around, taking in the scenery, the details and immersing yourself into Pandora – The World of Avatar.

The Attractions (without spoilers)

Avatar – Flight of Passage: Think the new Soarin’ TIMES TEN! Virtual reality at its best. A wind in your face experience on the back of a banshee flying over the world of Pandora, through the forest. An experience like no other.

The queue is lengthy which lets us believe that Disney is expecting long lines. The pre-shows explain enough so that those that have never watched the movie will have an understanding of what is going on. During one of the pre-shows is also where you will link to your Avatar.

The ride itself resembles a row of motorcycles. You are given a pair of 3D goggles to wear before straddling your unit (large enough to fit comfortably over glasses). Each rider is clamped from behind and around the legs. Without a doubt an adventure like no other when it comes to attractions at Walt Disney World. A must ride for all – even if you aren’t an Avatar fan.

The ride offers FastPass+, has a single rider line, and a 44” minimum height. Disney resort guests will be able to enjoy nightly evening Extra Magic Hours inside Pandora from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. from May 27th through July 4th.

Na’vi River Journey: This stunningly beautiful family attraction will have you boarding small reed boats to float past glowing plants and Pandoran creatures. Animatronics so real that you have to remind yourself they aren’t alive. Although a short ride, I was in awe of the beauty, the sounds and the Na’vi Shaman of Songs.


I rode twice and both times noticed something different and more fascinating.

The Food

Satu’li Canteen: A hut style building that offers lots of dining space and interesting decor. The menu is healthy and very allergy friendly offering wholesome grains and fresh vegetables. Every item I sampled was delicious and the prices are in-line with other Disney quick service dining locations.

Pongu Pongu: A quick cold drink (both alcoholic and alcohol free) or an egg-roll type snack filled with pineapple cheese cake can be found here. I can definitely see these rolls becoming a new Disney fan obsession! It’s a small limited menu but the offerings are fabulous!

Night Blossom (non-alcoholic)

The Merchandise

Windtraders is full of everything Avatar! Toys, dolls, tee-shirts, hats, create your own Avatar, adopt a Banshee and more.

Overall, I think Avatar fans will be WOW’d. Non-Avatar fans will be impressed. Those with no opinion at all will be mesmerized! The entire experience is amazing. The Cast Members contribute to your experience by never breaking character.

I know I can’t wait to go back with my family to see it all again!

Pandora – The World of Avatar will be opening to the public on May 27, 2017.