Happy Holidays from Walt Disney World!
Last week I received an email from Suzanne, a fellow Disney fanatic Tampa local, asking if I was interested in being her +1 for a Disney Parks Blog Meet Up at the new Splitsville opening in Downtown Disney for Monday night. Was I interested?!?! Hell yeah!
If you’re not a huge Disney Parks Blog nerd, here’s a little background to the event: Disney Parks Blog usually hosts amazing meet-ups that revolve around grand openings for new attractions, restaurants, or other cool things happening around Disney property (they do them at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World here in Florida). These meet ups are free to the public and are usually done on a first-come-first-served basis. Basically, in order to get the RSVP, you have to be on the computer right when the invitation is posted to the Disney Parks Blog and email them immediately letting them know you’re interested. Rumor has it that the Splitsville meet-up filled up the 125 spots in less than 9 minutes, and Suzanne was one of those lucky few (a right place, right time kind of deal).
I originally missed the sign up for the Splitsville event, but I have tried emailing for others in the past and failed to make the cut-off. RunDisney offers similar events before all of their races and I was lucky enough to attend the RunDisney meet-up before the the Princess Half Marathon last February. Based off of how amazing that event was, I knew this one was going to knock our socks off.
So after I used up all the exclamation points I could muster in a single email, I accepted Suzanne’s offer and suggested we head to the parks a little early to soak up the holiday spirit before the event. (Suzanne is a fellow annual passholder as well).
Before we met up, I wolfed down a snack plate for lunch. I was running late and only had 5 minutes to throw together something quick and tasty.
I met Suzanne in Tampa, then we drove to Walt Disney World and headed over to our first stop of the day: Animal Kingdom.
Sometimes I feel like Animal Kingdom is the forgotten Disney Park. It’s the park I’m the least familiar with and the one most people can go either way on seeing when they visit. I honestly wouldn’t have given it much thought yesterday, but I heard a rumor that Animal Kingdom goes all out for the holiday season and wanted to see the park all dressed up in its holiday finest.
‘Twas a warm day in ye ole Florida. High of 80 and tank tops and short shorts everywhere you see. I’m sure all of the tourists were enjoying our Florida winter weather.
We had some time to kill before the Jungle Jungle Parade and decided to check out the Festival of The Lion King.
Can you believe this Disney nerd (who was at Animal Kingdom the week it opened!) has never been to the Festival of the Lion King? I probably would have skipped it yesterday as well if it wasn’t for MomJovi raving about it in a recent blog post. When she compared it to the broadway version of Lion King in terms of costumes and musical talent, I knew I had to see it.
The show was so much fun. Unlike other live shows at Disney World based off of animated movies, this one doesn’t try to recreate the story of the Lion King. Instead it introduces acrobats, music, and dancing in a fun celebration of all the animals from the movie and beyond.
This is also a great show for kids since it encourages a great amount of audience participation. I may have let this show slip in the past, but I promise I will be back.
When we left the Lion King show, I noticed beautiful decorated Christmas trees that lined the street. If you looked closely you’d see each tree represents a famous Disney character. We were able to kill 15-20 minutes trying to guess which tree belonged to which character.
The Jingle Jungle Parade has been on my list of holiday “must sees” at Disney for a while now. It’s the only daytime holiday-themed parade at Walt Disney World and it’s so fitting to Florida’s weather this time of year. Christmas time may be cold other places in the U.S. and around the world, but it’s warm and sunny here just as it is in the jungle. The parade celebrated the heat with holiday decked out jeeps and jungle animals.
They did a great job with the parade. Not only were the floats all gorgeous, but the character interaction was top notch. If you’re at Disney World during Christmas time, I highly recommend heading to Animal Kingdom to check the parade out!
With the Jingle Jungle Parade behind us, we had one more holiday-themed item we wanted to see at Disney. This one required a trip to Hollywood Studios (which will always be MGM Studios in my heart!)
We needed a little snack before moving on. Since the RSVP said “light snacks” for the Splitsville meet-up, we decided to split a chicken and cous cous salad at the ABC Commissary.
The salad was the perfect hearty snack when split between two people. It was tasty too, just a little heavy on the dressing for my taste (next time I would order it sans dressing).
We rode Star Wars, then ran into one of the Disney street bands performing Christmas music on Streets of Americas.
LOVED them! Disney performers never fail to keep a crowd entertained. Bravo.
Then it was time for the main event.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
I swear photos do not do this scene justice. As soon as they flipped the lights on, it was pure magic. Beautiful, colorful, magic. Something you’d really have to see in person to truly understand the beauty of it all.
I wish we had more time to enjoy the lights, but we had a party to get to in downtown!
Welcome to Splitsville, where bowling ally meets bar and dance club.
There’s a Splitsville in Tampa that I’ve never been to. I’ve heard good things about it, but once you figure the price for parking, the overpriced fancy drinks, and higher rate you’re paying to bowl at the fancy lanes, you start to lose interest in the concept and just head down the street to the hole in the wall bowling ally that works just fine. However, that’s not to say it wouldn’t be a cool place to bring someone for a first date or friends from out of town that you want to impress.
The new Splitsville in Downtown Disney is gorgeous. Hard to believe this was the same building that used to house the Virgin Record Store I would beg my parents to let me explore when I was a kid.
Everything inside was sparkling, shiny, and still smelled brand new. Even the bowling balls were vibrant and colorful.
The meet-up took place in the upstairs (yes, the bowling ally was two stories) which felt more like a nightclub than a bowling ally. There was a dance floor, a DJ booth, a sushi counter, multiple bars, booths for ordering food at, pool tables, and bowling lanes, of course.
Disney and I have different interpretations on what consists of “light appetizers” Example A: the pork slider I was handed almost as soon as I entered.
Or the delicious cheeseburger slider that I tossed the pork slider away for and about tackled the server to take one. Probably one of the best cheeseburger sliders I’ve ever had (I think the sautéed onions, extra cheese, and copious amounts of lettuce helped).
There was unlimited soda and water at the party and we were handed one free drink ticket for an adult beverage of our choosing. I decided on the Skinny Margarita Martini, which went down way too easily if you ask me.
p.s. outdoor bar + gorgeous view of Downtown Disney = Amazing!
Also, leave it to Disney to hire professional dancers to stay on the dance floor all night and try to encourage people to dance.
Poor guys, they were pretty much on their own all night.
More great food: BBQ Chicken Pizza and sushi. Yes, sushi. A bowling ally and sushi bar in one – go figure.
Suzanne and I waited in a decent line for our shoes and be assigned to a lane. Since there were so many groups of 2 (every RSVP only included a +1) they were grouping us all together in shared lanes. No big deal, that just gave us a chance to make new friends. 😉
The lanes were super nice, but the booths were a little awkward to get in and out of if you were stuck in the middle. The service was also top notch. Our attendant was responsible for two lanes and was happy to help. We mentioned something about trying the sushi and – bam! – sushi appeared. The same thing happened when I mentioned coffee. Gotta love Disney and their amazing service.
Perks of knowing you’re one of the first to bowl the lanes? The shoes are brand new! 🙂
Now as far as my bowling game was concerned, eh. It was bad. The floor felt super slippery and I was sliding everywhere. Plus, I was too busy talking and enjoying myself to put too much serious effort in the game. I bowled a whopping 63 (woo hoo!) and managed a single spare and a lot of straight lines (-). Still had fun, though!!
As a special treat, we were handed some fun character Mickey ears to take home.
And in the small world of all small worlds, blog reader Alyssa was placed in the same lane as us and Amanda (who I met at the Princess meet up) was in the lane next to ours. The group of us traded RunDisney stories throughout the night. Alyssa and Amanda are running their first full marathons in january – you go girls!!
I spoke with the head of the Disney Parks Blog last night and rumor has it we should all be on the look out for more exciting meet-ups in 2013! All you have to do is follow the blog and be the first to email when an event is posted. That’s it! *Hint* They usually give a few hints via their twitter feed the day or so leading up to the posting. 😉
The party ended and we drove back to Tampa, where I promptly crashed in my bed before midnight. It was a good day.
What’s your favorite part about Walt Disney World during the holidays?