Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Downtown Disney Fun Fountains

You'll find a giant fountain near the front entrance, as well as smaller fountains throughout the Marketplace.
Just follow the laughter.

Bubble Fountains (between LEGO and World of Disney)
Mickey and the Clay pots Fountain
(between World of Disney and the Home Store)
Sorcery Mickey Fountains.

Cirque du Soleil presents La Nouba

Cirque du Soleil shows are like no others. La Nouba, the new Cirque du Soleil show, created especially for Downtown Disney West Side, is presented in a cylindrical structure with 160 foot metal towers. The 70,000-square-foot theater transfers the look and atmosphere of a circus tent and has seating for 1,670 guests. The show is 90 minutes long and entertains with outrageous costumes, magical lighting, original sets and live music. There are no animals in the show. Cirque du Soleil is not a dinner show. No photography or video taping allowed.

Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba - Official DIS Review
(by Adam Brown):

La Nouba is the current Cirque du Soleil production being showcased at the Cirque du Soleil theatre at Downtown Disney West Side. La Nouba was developed exclusively for this venue and consequently the show's underlying theme is consistent with that of the Walt Disney Word resort. "La Nouba" is French for fun, to party, and to "live it up". All of those words can analogously be used to describe the Walt Disney World resort.

The show, La Nouba, most certainly lives up to what its name implies. Those of you that have seen Cirque du Soleil's other permanently housed productions, such as those in Vegas, will notice that the experience with La Nouba is distinct from the start as the show is presented in its own stand-alone theatre. As you make your way to the theatre at the western-most end of Downtown Disney, the giant spires of the impressive, white "big top" draw you to the base of the building. Here you will find the theatre's gift shop and box office. Should you wish to purchase a souvenir program or CD before you enter the theatre, you be pleased to learn that vendors are located at the base of the theatre (however, their constant, shrill shouting made me wonder if I was about to attend a baseball game, rather than a theatrical experience). After ascending the swooping staircase to the second story entrance into the theatre and having your tickets scanned by the greeter, you will notice the vibrant colors in the theatre carpet, and on the walls. As with many grand productions, you enter into the auditorium by passage through red velvet curtains. The white "big top" theatre at Downtown Disney West Side is as impressive as it has room for 1,671 patrons, which appears to be a little smaller than the theatre at Treasure Island, Las Vegas (at least in my recollection).

Fun Fact: You will notice on the ceiling above the stage, 7 "abstract" forms - those are artistic impressions of artists in motion.

The style of La Nouba is not as elaborate and extravagant as its Las Vegas counterparts (Mystere and "O") in my opinion, but that in itself is part of its charm. The Cirque du Soleil tradition of storytelling through original "new-age" music performed by a live orchestra is every bit as enthralling as the other shows. Interestingly, the orchestra is housed in two multi-level towers on either side of the stage. Again, not your ordinary theatre experience. La Nouba uses dramatic lighting, and sets and stages that move and evolve in different ways than the other Cirque du Soleil shows. You don't have to worry about not having enough to look at while watching La Nouba. Theatrics are always going on in the background of the main act, adding to the spectacle that almost "intoxicates" your senses. On my most recent viewing of La Nouba, my companion passed comment, "at times, I wasn't sure where I was supposed to be looking!"

The individual circus acts are incredible, enjoyable, and truly enthralling for people of all ages. There is one act that stands out in my mind above all. It is a Diablo act that involves four young girls. It may *seem* simple, but the amazing performance presented must require an incredible amount of training and discipline (no spoilers here, but anyone who has seen La Nouba will know what act I am talking about!) In fact, it is evident in the performance that La Nouba demands rigorous mental and physical conditioning on the part of its artists.

Some patrons have commented that La Nouba lacks a powerful finale that the other Cirque du Soleil shows have. I would have to agree with this statement having seen some of their other shows. One must also remember that this show was specifically designed to have a simpler flair than its counterparts. I first saw this show during its premiere week and was told that each night of the week they had presented a different ending. However, having seen the show again recently, I have to be honest and say that I feel the finale is still lacking. What is it lacking? Its lacking some *umph* - the grand in "grand finale" is missing. Regardless and like that to all Cirque du Soleil shows, the audience reaction to La Nouba is consistently thunderous during the performance, concluded with a long and loud standing ovation.

La Nouba
is a WONDERFUL show and I would recommend anyone interested in seeing it to take the time and do so. If it is your first visit to the Walt Disney World resort, there will be plenty of other things to occupy your time. However, if you are looking for a culturally-enriched alternative to the Mouse, or you are on a return trip to the Orlando area, I believe Cirque du Soleil is a must. Would children enjoy this show? I'd say most kids aged 5 and older would enjoy it. Younger than that, they may not be able to appreciate the show (or sit still for the duration!)

Downtown Disney Market Place Shops

You'll find unique shops and restaurants, basking in a relaxing waterfront setting, complete with a marina stocked with water craft. Shops offer the latest fashions, Disney gifts and collectibles. Numerous dining options let you savor a bounty of delights, from both land and sea. There's something for all of your senses at Downtown Disney Marketplace.


The Art of Disney
A gallery of Disney animation art and collectibles. One of a kind art pieces by acclaimed artists. Choose from sculptures, pottery, crystal, animation cels, reproductions, and sericels.

Specializing in bath salts, all-natural hand-carved specialty soaps, bath bubblers and shampoo bars.

Disney's Days of Christmas
At Disney's Days of Christmas, it's the holiday season all year long. When you enter the holiday wonderland, it's difficult to resist the Christmas spirit. Looking up, you realize that you are actually under an oversized Christmas tree. Giant wrapped presents, and shiny beach ball sized ornaments adorn the tree. You'll have no problem satisfying your holiday decorating and gift shopping needs.

Disney's Wonderful World of Memories
Disney World scrapbook supplies. Including albums, pre-packaged kits, adhesive tape pens, glue sticks, scissors, and a wide assortment of colorful Disney stickers. Also available are Disney books, stationery, pens and postcards, plus several stations where guests can create scrapbook pages and postcards.

Goofy's Candy Co.
An assortment of candy, cookies, taffy, chocolates, frozen drinks and more.

LEGO Imagination Center
All new superstore, where you'll find the latest creations from LEGO PRIMO, LEGO DUPLO, and LEGO elements. Check out "Brickley," the 50 foot LEGO Sea Serpent in the lagoon and all of the other masterpieces in the outdoor play area.

Mickey's Mart-"Everything Ten Dollars and Under"
Unique gifts, surprise grab bags and highlighted item of the week, all at value pricing.

Pooh Corner
Everything from kid's to adult's apparel. Including plush toys, accessories, and decorative gifts. Winnie the Pooh merchandise at its best. A wooded ambiance adds to the excitement of selecting your favorite Pooh items.

World of Disney
The biggest Disney store! Featuring 12 themed rooms based on Disney classics. You'll find a mountain of plush toys, everything from infant apparel and gourmet items, to jewelry and casual wear.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Character Meals

Where else but Walt Disney World can you dine with your favorite characters! The popularity of character meals has grown so much that you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with the characters.

The meals are served several ways.

  • Traditional buffet-style -- available at most of the participating restaurants.
  • Family-style -- the server brings large bowls/plates/skillets of food that you serve yourself and pass around the table.
  • Pre-plated meals --These meals are served to each guest and each plate includes the same meal.

Most options are all-you-care-to-eat and have one fixed price for the meal. At the family-style and pre-plated meals you need only ask to have seconds of anything.

As a rule, you need to make Advance Reservations for character meals. However, during slow seasons it is sometimes possible to attend a Character Meal without an Advance Reservation. Advance Reservations are available for all character meals and can be arranged by calling 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463).

For all of the Character Meals -- the characters make their way around the room, stopping at each table. You don't have to run after the character or wait in a special line. In fact, the characters generally will not stop for you if you chase them. If you stay seated and them visit you, it lends a great deal of order to the fun.

Tracking Down the Characters in the Park

You're in the park and on a mission -- gotta find those characters!

How do you find the Characters and what do you do when you get there?

Read the Times Guides -- Each of the 4 main parks (Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Magic Kingdom and the Disney-MGM Studios) provide Times Guides that include character greeting times and locations.

Check the Character Location Guide -- The Magic Kingdom has these at every character location, the main tip board on Main Street, and at a lot of merchandise locations as well. This guide will tell you what *sort* of characters to expect at each location (i.e., characters from The Jungle Book, rather than specific ones) as well as what times they will be there.

Use Guest Relations -- Guest Relations at the parks are very useful (Also City Hall at the Magic Kingdom). They have numbers they can contact to see where everyone will be making appearances. If your child has been aching for a photo with Donald Duck, when you arrive at the park in the morning, your best bet would be to go to Guest Relations. They can find out for you where the good spots are to spot that duck. Though, these schedules are always subject to change, there's a good chance of finding them.

Wander around aimlessly -- But now that you've spent all your time planning this wonderful trip, is this what you really want to do? If you want to just run into the characters by accident, fabulous. But there are other ways if you're interested in snagging those autographs.

Still stumped?? Use your friendly neighborhood Cast Members -- Cast members have a phone number to call if you want to know where a specific character should be. However, if you're just looking to see as many as possible, or just see who you might run into, you can.

Woohoo! There they are! Um, now what?

Lining Up -- Okay you've found out where your desired character is, now how to get to that character. Waiting at the entrance they come out at is not recommended. Pluto needs his space just like everyone else. If you find out they'll be coming out at 4:50pm, try to arrive about 5 minutes prior.

Be ready -- That means having those pens open, those books open, your cameras ready, and your video cameras rolling! By all means, take the lens cap OFF. Don't have your camera turned around backwards and take a picture of your (now blinded) face. Don't forget to put your name and address or hotel in the autograph book. You'd be surprised how many are lost...

Try to find "thicker" pens -- remembering some characters have gloves on. Ink pens are best for autograph books and other regular paper products. The brand Sharpie offers a felt tip writer that is "fat" and good for autographing most items in the hat, shirt, poster category. It comes in blue, black and other colors.

Be flexible -- Some of the cutest pictures I've seen have been of a small child staring up in wonder at the life size Pooh standing over him/her. In other words, not every picture has to have everyone looking at the camera. Sometimes a child will not look at you, no matter how long you sit there like a stuck record: "Honey, look here. Look up at Mommy. Look at the camera. Sweetie, say cheese. Look up for the picture. Honey...." Also, do not force your child. If he or she is frightened, do you really want a picture of a terrified child in tears, just so you can "prove" he or she saw Mickey?

Listen to the greeter -- When they say Minnie is going to be right back after she powders her nose, that means just that. She will be RIGHT BACK. Don't ruin your day by causing a scene. Curiously, this is more often the parents than the children.

Be Nice -- I must admit, Pluto sure does look like a walking jungle jim. Everything from his ears, nose, and tongue down to his tail are easy to hang on. But! These folks gotta be safe and in good shape for meeting so many people every day. Be nice to them and they should be nice back. Pluto does like getting scratched behind the ears. Donald loves to get kisses on the beak. Tigger loves to Bounce!

Be Considerate! - to both the other guests wanting to get to the characters and to the characters themselves! When a character needs to leave an area, it does not mean they have personally singled you out to be mean to. Characters can only stay out for a certain time and it's really important that they leave when the greater tells them it's time. Please DO NOT grab the character(s) and demand that they stay for you. At one time Character Availability was limited, but no longer!

Why do those crazy characters do the things they do?

Holding Children -- "Can [insert character name here] hold my child?" No. Nope, sorry, no way. The characters can be a little ... clumsy. You really don't want Gideon dropping your child, no matter how cute the picture would be beforehand. But perhaps, the character might be able to sit on the floor and have your child on their lap.... :)

And then there are the adults who just HAVE to know. Never mind all the children around them who Believe. They smirk at the characters like they are privy to some huge secret. Don't be those people. In order to satisfy your curiosity...


I'm not sure why people feel the need to ask these questions, but they do. These questions are heard every day, many times a day. In the hopes of avoiding seeing those precious little faces fall when they overhear some adult bent on crushing the magic... Ok, soapbox mode off. :)

Is it hot in there?

Yes. In a word, yes. I have to laugh at how many people think there are personal air conditioning units inside. Where in the world would they go? But this is why the characters are only out for a little bit at a time -- from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on location and time of year. When Pluto has to go get a drink, please let him go. He will be right back.

Is it heavy?

Depends on which character. Look at what they're wearing. Beast wears a bit more than oh, say, Minnie. But suffice it to say it's a bit heavier than your t-shirt, shorts, and fanny pack.

Are you a boy or a girl in there?

This one astounds me. But in the interest of answering questions, look at body size and guess. Looking at Goofy, how many females do you know around 6 feet tall? Same goes for the mice. Know many small frame, 5 foot guys? As for the middle range characters, you never know. Please don't try to squeeze the arms or hands to feel body size. Although it is kind of humorous to hear someone proclaim matter of factly, "That's a boy in there" when they are so wrong.

Please use common sense --

Don't ask the greeter any of these questions. They won't answer them any more than the character will. While you may be very amused by your macho men getting a picture with Chip or Dale, please recall the the chipmunks are a bit smaller than they are, and perhaps leaning on them with all the guys' weight might not be very comfortable for the chipmunks. It also makes sense that whereas a 5 year old giving Pinocchio a high five as hard as he can can be kind of funny, a 10 year old doing the same thing is *not.*

Please, please, please have fun. That's what you're there for, right? Play with the characters. Interact with them. Don't focus so much on the autographs. Just have a good time. :)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Packing Ideas

  1. Backpack
  2. Fanny Pack
  3. Bathing suits
  4. Beach towel (the cheaper the quicker it will dry)
  5. Battery operated personal fan - It has a string so that you can put it around your neck, but it is still small enough to fit in your fanny pack
  6. Beach Shoes or flip flops
  7. Cooler - a soft, collapsible one to tote sandwiches and drinks to the water parks
  8. Hats - straw, baseball,
  9. Frozen Drinks - Freezing bottled water the night before heading out keeps water cold.
  10. Laundry Detergent - Rather than paying high prices for a small box of laundry detergent, bring some from home.
  11. Night Lights - inexpensive night lights. No bumps and crashes in the night if you just stick these in the outlets. The kids will feel more secure if they know they'll be able to get to the bathroom quickly and easily.
  12. Rain Poncho
  13. Sensible shoes -- Comfy, well-broken in shoes are essential. This isn't the time to try a new pair of shoes. If you must get new shoes for your trip, be sure to break them in early.
  14. Sunscreen
  15. Sunglasses - for ALL members of your traveling tribe, and don't forget those handy-dandy straps that keep the sunglasses hanging around your neck. Much more convenient than tucking the sunglasses in a pocket or fanny pack every time you get on an attraction.