It’s the Season to be Jolly and other Winter Tales

The end of the year always brings about a flurry of activities, starting with what has become my annual Yuletide trip to the Orlando theme parks.

Christmas Season

From park to park I go in search of the Christmas spirit. This year I found it inside Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure where the icky-green Grinch tried to steel Christmas from the Whos. I love this show and meeting the Grinch in person afterwards was the highlight of my visit to Universal Orlando.

To be fair, over at Universal Studios the Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s is certainly not to be dismissed.

The big wow factor here however was the new holiday show that Universal Studios projected nightly on the walls of Hogwarts castle. The show was part of the Christmas in The Wizarding World, which also included an adapted show of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees who put the song “My Baby Gave Me a Hippogriff for Christmas” into my head for days!

Usually Epcot is my favorite theme park during the holiday season, but this year I really felt that Disney’s Hollywood Studios conveyed the holiday spirit best. You will never look at the Tower of Terror the same way and I loved to see that even umbrellas were all decked out for the season!

Back in Birmingham I enjoyed the holiday party that the homeowner association organized at my new home. It was a nice way to meet my new neighbors, who like me, enjoyed the very musical Santa that stopped by for the occasion.

Early in the month the city came to a standstill as an unusual heavy snowfall brought about a snow day. Having experienced real Northeastern living in New York I still smile when two inches of snow shut down an entire city. I do realize however that it is such rare an occasion that the city acquiring snowplows would be a waste of my tax dollars.

Soon it will be time for my annual trip to New York City. Time to get ready!


Of Drones and Christmas Cheer

Disney Springs is all spruced up for the holidays this year, and it provides the backdrop for a new holiday experience featuring 300 show drones.

The Starbright Holiday—An Intel Collaboration takes place nightly at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. now through January 8th over Lake Buena Vista.

The 5-minute choreographed aerial performance of 300 drones is set to holiday music, and the drones create holiday images such as a Christmas tree, an angel, and a dove of peace.

The show marks the U.S. public debut of the Intel Shooting Star drone–a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle specifically designed for entertainment purposes, such as festivals and air and light shows.

But there is more. Every night at the Once Upon a Toy fountain play area, a Christmas tree lighting takes place at 6 p.m., and the new Christmas tree trail features 15 custom-decorated evergreens, each capturing a popular Disney character or movie.

I liked the Christmas tree trail a lot and I believe it really has potential, but think that there is room for improvement. Read: more trees, more bling, more decoration, bigger trees, and please bring back the traditional Christmas carols!

Talking about Christmas carols, throughout the evening, at the Once Upon a Toy fountain play area, toy soldier stilt walkers, carolers, and an a capella group take turns spreading holiday cheer, and a DJ spins holiday-themed music, making sure that you get into the Yuletide spirit. Make sure to look for the strolling piano at Town Center!

Walt Disney World is always decked out to the max, and Christmas is indeed the most magical time of the year to visit the parks. Check out a related story I did for and find out the top 10 reasons why Christmas is a perfect time to visit the Kingdom of the Mouse. If you are considering a stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, read my article here.

Countdown to Spring

Countdown to Spring

Run Merida Run!

The sun was lowest, the night was longest, but with winter solstice behind us I started my countdown to Spring. There won’t be a White Christmas, and the weather, just like me, has its ups and downs. Either way, the days are getting longer, and it is only 85 days till Spring and exactly 178 days till Summer!

Of course, another countdown has begun. In a few days, we will say goodbye to 2013 and welcome a new year. So often we wish for a good year, a better year, a successful one, but how about looking back and reflecting on the one that just is about to slip into the past? There are so many things I am grateful for. Exactly one year ago today (December 24), I received my Green Card, and my son not only graduated from film school, but he also went West to work in his field. I miss him, of course, but thank God for planes. Los Angeles has not seen the last of me.

In 2013, I set out to shed the weight I had been carrying around with me, and weight of all sorts it was. I started running and, thanks to the encouragement of dear friends, I ran my first race. It was a modest 5K that Laura Spencer and I set out to conquer, but to me it felt like climbing Mount Everest. I never knew what a runner’s high was until I experienced it and I got hooked on running. I discovered a whole community of supporting and caring running buddies; even when I did hit a roadblock, I kept moving.

So, minus a gallbladder, I did run a 10K in Anaheim, and it was simply heaven when at the finish line my son and my future daughter-in-law were waiting for me. Encouraged and cranking it up a notch, I did run 10 miles in Orlando in October. Eventually, I also did shed the physical weight, and I am now racing to my final goal, as far as my feet will carry me. I am training for my first half Marathon, and I shudder at the idea of how this will eventually feel.

Countdown to Spring

2013 at Disney

In the meantime, I have traveled in Europe, Canada, and the United States. My all-time favorite Mouse did see a lot of me this year and was the subject of 39 published stories, including Epcot during the holidays and Christmas decorations at Disney resorts. Last but not least, I am working on the seventh edition of my guide book to Walt Disney World with Kids.

I have been blessed to be able to report about my trials and tribulations, and I think 2014 will bring more of the same. Sometimes, more of the same is a good thing.

But I nearly forgot, there was one more thing I did in 2013 that was just unheard of: I learned how to drive a car. So going forward, may all who cross my path in the New Year be safe and may 2014 bring many more happy trails.


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas


Christmas at Walt Disney World

It does not matter if your favorite version is by Perry Como, Bing Crosby, or even Alvin and the Chipmunks, chances are you know the song! Many artists have given us a rendition of this Christmas classic written by Meredith Wilson; while people are starting to decorate homes and shop for gifts, I looked at what can get you into the holiday spirit when vacationing at Walt Disney World.



Gingerbread decorating classes at the Grand Floridian Resort

All four parks, the resorts, and Downtown Disney undergo a major transformation in early November; with more than 1,300 decorated trees and 8.5 million lights strung throughout the property, getting into the spirit of the season is easy at Walt Disney World.

There is actually so much to do that one can enjoy an entire day of sightseeing without ever setting foot in either one of the four parks. All resorts are decorated to the max and are attractions in their own rights. Check out my recommendation for resort hopping and things to do at Downtown Disney.


The Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights

Every year, Disney Hollywood Studios puts on the Osborne Family’s Spectacle of Dancing Lights, but did you know that a ruling of the Arkansas Supreme Court was instrumental in bringing this amazing show to Orlando? Find out how it all came about!

At the Magic Kingdom, it is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that marks the start of the holiday season, and Disney goes all out with giant Christmas trees; thousands of garlands, holiday wreaths, and lights create an enchanting atmosphere. Snow falls on Main Street U.S.A., the Beast’s Castle in New Fantasyland is decorated, and the park puts on some of the best live entertainment ever. Here is what you can enjoy during the party.


World Showcase (Mexico pavilion) at Epcot

My favorite park to visit during this time of year is Epcot. Holidays from around the world are on display at World Showcase. Stroll from land to land, enjoy the Yuletide tales of the storytellers, and take in the sounds and the smells of the season.