#NowMoreThanEver: Visit the Epcot International Festival of the Arts

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts has become one of my favorites in recent years. It’s a great mix of food, entertainment, art, seminars and great merchandise.

Visual Arts – Performing Arts – Culinary Arts: All coming together for a colorful festival in that special way that only Disney can accomplish!

Wenbo Sheng, Food Artist, the Painted Panda Food Studio/China – Sugar Art is Created in seconds! It’s amazing (and delicious!)

Although a relatively new festival at Epcot (only in it’s third year), it feels like an old friend offering some favorites (Figment and new Figment merchandise) while highlighting new fun, artistic and colorful happenings. 

RUN! I mean really run because the festival will only be happening for 39 days (beginning January 18) and running through February 25, 2019. Live music, new artwork and culinary tastings will make everyone that visits glad they came!

The Entertainment

The festival offers a wide array of entertainment. Disney artists who create a dash of magic on canvas, living statues inspired by Epcot, Broadway performers who bring songs from award-winning Disney on Broadway productions to life, and more!

Sidewalk Chalk Art

You will even find art on sidewalks and other surprising places!

New this year, the Disney on Broadway Concert Series will be happening seven days a week during the festival. Each week, different pairs of Disney on Broadway stars will take the America Gardens Theater stage to sing favorite songs from award-winning Disney on Broadway productions.

The lineup will rotate regularly, featuring music from shows such as “The Lion King,” “Frozen” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Performers this year include:

  • Kerry Butler (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Kevin Massey (“Tarzan”)
  • Meredith Inglesby (“The Little Mermaid”) and Steve Blanchard (“Beauty and the Beast”)
  • Arielle Jacobs and Adam Jacobs (“Aladdin”)
  • Heidi Blickenstaff (“Freaky Friday”) and Gavin Lee (“Mary Poppins”)
  • Ashley Brown (“Mary Poppins”) and Josh Strickland (“Tarzan”)
  • Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White (“The Lion King”)

The concert series is included with park admission; showtimes are 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. nightly.

The Food. The Beverages. 

Beer and Chocolate Pairings

Sweet and savory works of culinary art are available – you can watch a Disney chef create a culinary work of art right before your eyes. 

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts features 13 Food Studios, plus additional creative food and beverage offerings around Epcot with an expanded selection of delicious new tastes to savor:

Cold Fashioned Coffee Cocktail

  • The Artist’s Table will feature beef wellington with mushroom bordelaise, fennel cream and roasted baby vegetables
  • Smoked salmon and cream gâteau with egg yolk cream, paddlefish caviar and micro-herbs is sure to be a new favorite at The Painter’s Palate
  • Pop Eats! will serve up almond frangipane cake with raspberry and chocolate
  • Red wine-braised short rib with parsnip purée, broccolini, baby tomatoes and aged balsamic will be available at Cuisine Classique

Pop Eats!

Festival Fun

The 2019 festival provides fun every day for every guest with mesmerizing performance art, complimentary seminars, hands-on activities and much more.

Interactive workshops and seminars are among the festival’s most popular experiences. You can learn artistic techniques from professionals skilled in floral design, ink and paint, photography, and more. 

Need a little bit of a break – you can sit in on informative chats for free!! Accomplished Disney artists, experts and Cast Members impart their professional expertise during a series of complimentary seminars each day.

Complimentary Seminars take place in the Odyssey Festival Showplace (included with Epcot admission) seven days a week at 11:30 a.m. No advanced booking is required (first come, first served).

You can even paint with a Disney artist! Details on all the workshops and seminars can be found HERE.

  • Everyone’s invited to grab a paintbrush and help create a wall mural along World Showcase Plaza.
  • Guests of all ages will have the opportunity to literally step inside works of art and take fun photos, such as the “Washington Crossing the Delaware” Artful Photo Opportunity.
  • The Paint with a Disney Artist program invites guests to learn under the tutelage of a professional (offered select Fridays and Sundays, including continental breakfast, for an additional fee).
  • A variety of workshops led by professionals will teach different artistic techniques, such as floral design, ink and paint, mixed-media art and more (offered Friday-Monday for an additional fee). As a memento of what they learned, guests will take their creations home with them.
  • Complimentary 30-minute seminars will give guests helpful instruction for producing their own artwork at home.
  • More than 50 visiting artists participating in the festival will be available to meet with guests and share insights on their work.
  • Disney artists’ work will be exhibited across Epcot.
  • Gravity-defying feats of strength, acrobatics and many performing artists are scheduled throughout the festival.
  • International musical and variety acts will share their talents with guests, including the return of Bodh’aktan to the Canada stage and Delta Q, a new group performing in Germany.
  • Guests can join in the fun of Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt by purchasing a map at select merchandise locations.

Merchandise

Special festival themed merchandise abounds! Special festival merchandise will be available at Mouse Gear and other Epcot locations featuring the festival’s logo adorning shirts, mugs, totes and other charming items.

You will definitely find a perfect piece of the festival to take home with you. 

At this year’s festival, more than 50 artists will come together to showcase their talent. Artist signings are scheduled for select dates throughout the festival. 

Art collectors and Disney enthusiasts will find artwork for sale throughout the entire park, from the Art of Disney store to Festival Markets.

Living Art! I wonder how they stay so still for so long!

I was invited by Disney Parks to attend a media event for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. I was provided free park admission. All opinions are my own.




The South Carolina Chocolate Shop Road Trip

If you’re a chocolate lover I bet you never thought to take a road trip based on chocolate. Or a chocolate road trip through South Carolina.

I personally have never encountered a piece of chocolate I didn’t immediately fall in love with. If you’re like me and have a weakness for chocolate, then this road trip is made for you!

Below, you’ll find seven old school chocolate shops and a great road trip that connects them all. What a great way to see some of South Carolina too!

Photo: OnlyInYourState.com

You’ll want to start in either Fort Mill (near Charlotte) or Hilton Head. Although the actually driving time is do-able in one day (7.5 hours) I recommend enjoying the trip over at least 2 days.

Chocolat Boutique – Fort Mill

The Chocolat Boutique is located at 1012 Market Street, Fort Mill, SC and is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Photo: Chocolat Boutique

Chocolat Boutique is a gourmet chocolate store with an on-site kitchen where their chocolatier and small team creates handmade truffles and confections.

They have developed their own range of chocolates as well as offering freshly made bonbons imported directly from Belgium and Switzerland.

Vaughn Russell Candy Kitchen – Greenviille

You’ll find the BEST unique and specialty chocolates at 401 Augusta Road, Greenville, SC. The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sunday and Monday. 

Photo: Vaughn Russell Candy

Vaughn Russell is family-owned and operated from a single location in Greenville, South Carolina. The Vaughn Russell specialty is gourmet chocolate. They offer a wide range of chocolate covered nuts, caramels, cream centers, truffles, and more, with a signature trademarked Mint Pecan.

Chocolate Reigns – Columbia

Chocolate Reigns is located at 4920 Monticello Road, Columbia, SC, and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Photo: Chocolate Reigns

Chocolate Reigns is a women owned and operated business dedicated to customer satisfaction and hospitality. The business started as a party and event planning enterprise. They specialize in fresh and delicious berries, cupcakes, and treats that will delight and please the sweetest of sweet tooth’s. All items are made with love and covered in chocolate!

Kilwins – Charleston

Kilwins is located at 59 S Market Street, Charleston, SC and is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. If you would like to add in an additional stop on your road trip, Kilwins offers another location in Myrtle Beach.

Photo: Kilwins

The sweet scents of pecan pralines, fudge, waffle cones, home made caramel, corns and brittles entice market goers. You can just follow the sweet aroma to the front door.

The Chocolate Tree – Beaufort

The Chocolate Tree is located at 507 Carteret Street, Beaufort, SC and is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.


The Chocolate Tree is Beaufort’s one-stop-shop for fine chocolates and other confections made right on the premises! You can also have your candies shipped anywhere in the world.

Chocolates by the Sea – Hilton Head

Chocolates by the Sea is located at 24 Palmetto Bay Road., Hilton Head Island, SC and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Chocolates by the Sea has been established as having Hilton Head Island’s finest confections. Winning awards each year, locals and visitors travel to come to taste the delectable hand dipped chocolates, signature barks, and specialty items.

Kilwins – Shelter Cove, Hilton Head

Kilwins is located in the Shelter Cove Shopping Center. The address is 112 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island, SC. The hours are Sunday through Friday, from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Kilwins Hilton Head offers a variety of ice cream, cased chocolates, hand paddled fudges, caramels, corns and other confectionery creations.

Are you ready to pack your bag for a chocolate lovers road trip? I am!




Do You Know How to Stay Safe on a Road Trip?

Photo: Dino Reichmuth via Unsplash

When it comes to travel, you’re always going to have your own way of doing things, that’s for sure. Because we’re all creatures of habit, as much as we might want to think otherwise. It’s super easy for us all to think about going to the same places when we vacation – or the same kinds of places, at least. And we probably do the same kind of activities too. Eat at the same places. And it can all get a little repetitive – whether you realize it or not.

So sometimes, it’s fun to shake things up. This is often why we all think about heading out on a road trip. It’s a way to just have a little fun. Yet, this kind of travel involves a lot of transport and risk too, so it’s essential that you can stay safe.

Let’s consider how you’re going to do this.

  1. Check Your Vehicle

First of all, you’re absolutely going to want to make sure that you’re checking your vehicle out.

You really don’t want to embark on a road trip with a car that isn’t cut out for it. So make sure that you’ve checked the engine and that you’re all good to set out. This will keep you safe.

  1. Pack Well

As much as you might not actually have a weight limit when you’re driving, you still want to be comfortable. So taking too much stuff with you really isn’t going to cut it.

Instead, you need to make sure that you’re packing carefully. Only take what you need so that the car isn’t overloaded.

Photo: Pietro DeGrandi via Unsplash

  1. Drive Carefully

Then, when it comes to actually being on the road, you absolutely need to make sure that you’re driving as carefully as you can. Because, yes, you can learn when a truck accident lawsuit may occur, but isn’t it better for you to be able to stay safe? You’ll want to drive carefully for this very reason. And, make sure that you’re wary of other road users that perhaps aren’t being all that vigilant at all.

  1. Plan Properly

Next up, it’s also a really good idea for you to think about planning for your road trip as well as you can.

Sure, it seems spontaneous to just hit the road and see where you end up. But it can be risky too. By planning your stops, you’ll know when you get to have a break, you can plan out places to eat, and it’s generally a lot safer to do things this way too.

  1. Be Vigilant

And finally, it’s then incredibly important for you to think about being aware when you’re on the road and when you’re making your stops.

As much as you might not want to let certain things get to you, or fear from stopping you from living your life, you definitely want to be secure. So stay alert. Watch out for anything that doesn’t seem right. Keep your belongings safe. And be aware on the road. As long as you’re vigilant, you’ll be able to safe.




Drawing Up A Plan Of Action: Travel Tips For Adventurers

Image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/glaciernps/44772233745

If you’re an adventurous type, there’s nothing more exhilarating than organizing a trip that enables you to try new things and experience and embrace the adrenaline rush provided by life in the great outdoors.

When it comes to al fresco pursuits and adventure breaks, it’s always wise to plan ahead to make the most of the time you have available and reduce the risk of unwanted injuries and accidents.

Here are some tips for your next jaunt.

Creating an itinerary

Adventure vacations often offer up a wide range of activities and excursions, and many outdoor hobbies require a degree of pre-planning and preparation. While in some cases, it is possible to turn up at a lake with a kayak or to scale a mountain without extensive planning, it is wise to design an itinerary for your trip, especially if you’re not familiar with the area.

Figure out how you want to spend your time, take a good look at what kinds of activities are available, and make sure you’re aware of restrictions. If you’re going to a national park, for example, you may need to pay a fee, you might need a permit, or you may have to join an organized tour.

If you are thinking of booking excursions with tour operators, read reviews and testimonials to compare different agencies and get an insight into what different trips entail.

Planning in advance will help you to make the most of the time you have available and ensure that you’re ready and raring to go.

Packing the right kit

Packing for a vacation in the outdoors is very different to getting ready for a beach break.

If you’ve got specific trips or pursuits in mind, make sure you’ve got everything you need before you travel or ask your tour operator or the companies running individual trips about renting equipment. If you’re planning some solo adventures, you might need to take your own kit.

If you’re going climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing or canyoneering, take a look at what you’ve already got and browse online to add to your collection before you jet off. You’ll find everything from walking boots and outdoor clothing to canyoneering gear & apparel online.

If you’re joining tours, there’s a good chance that kit will be provided, so check before you go out and spend money. When you’re shopping, always bear the conditions in mind. If it’s going to be cold and wet, for example, invest in thermal layers, a warm, waterproof jacket, and thick socks, hats, and gloves.

Staying safe

Adventure sports carry risks, but there are ways of lowering the chances of being involved in accidents and picking up injuries. Always listen to safety briefings, go with a guide if you’re inexperienced or new to the area, and make sure you’ve got the right equipment.

Image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmistur/5954139786

Plan routes in advance, stick to designated pathways and take a first aid kit, snacks, and plenty of water with you. Check the weather forecast before you go hiking, climbing, biking, or sailing and listen out for advice from the authorities.

If you’re an adventurer by nature, there’s nothing more thrilling than taking a break in the great outdoors. Hopefully, these tips will help you plan an unforgettable, action-packed break.




5 Things To Consider When Renting A Large Cabin

Photo by Dallas Reedy on Unsplash

Whether you’ve stayed in a cabin before or you’re thinking of making your first trip, planning ahead is the best way to ensure everyone has an incredible time. There’s so much to think about before you can book your trip, especially if you’re planning a big family vacation with lots of different people from across the whole family coming to stay with you.

With that in mind, here are 5 things to consider when renting a large cabin:

When Do You Want To Go?

Planning a time that is great for everyone is probably going to be one of the most difficult aspects of renting a large cabin. You’ll have to speak to everyone involved to find out when they’re able to get time off work and pick a time-frame that suits the majority.

A great way to do this is to build an online calendar where everyone can sign up and mark the date they’re not free as it’s so much easier to keep track of than sending lots of messages back and forth.

How Long Do You Want To Go For?

Once you’ve decided your dates it’s time to think about how long you want to go for. Not everyone will be able to get the same amount of time off work so it’s best to pick a time frame that suits most people.

If you’re struggling, why not consider renting a large cabin for a set period of time, allowing your family members to come and go on the dates they’re available. If you do this, try to get at least a couple of days where everyone is together at the same time.

Where Do You Want To Go?

Now that you know how long you’re going for and what dates, it’s time to find the perfect location. There are lots of different options across the country, but picking somewhere that’s easily accessible for the whole family would be the best option. For one of my favorite options, check out these stunning Red River Gorge Cabins.

How Many People Will Be Going?

Another thing to consider before you rent out a large cabin is the number of people that will be going. You’ll need to work out the number of rooms you will need based on who can share with who, enabling you to narrow down your search to only properties that are big enough.

What Activities Do You Want To Do?

Once you have absolutely everything else sorted you can start to think about what kind of activities you want to do while you’re staying at the cabin.

While in some cases this may affect the location you stay in, often you’ll find similar activities in surrounding areas of most cabins. Whether you want to go on long walks, hike up gorgeous mountains or spend time cozied up watching movies with the family – a cabin vacation will give you the opportunity to do everything you wish.

Have you ever considered renting a large cabin for you and the family for your next family getaway? Let me know if you use any of the above tips in the comment section below.