Just How Awesome is Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live?

Just How Awesome is Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live?

Much like Donald’s Dino-Bash at Animal Kingdom, Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live is part of Walt Disney World’s Incredible Summer. To celebrate summer and the arrival of The Incredibles 2, each park is offering some exciting new activities.

Awesome Mix Live!

Though fully prepared to not care at all about the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, they’ve become some of my top favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The characters are all so flawed but so lovable; I appreciate that they’re so different from your average superhero.

When the Guardians event was first announced for Epcot, I was really excited. I envisioned a concert at the Fountain of Nations Stage with music from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie soundtracks (Awesome Mix 1 & 2), fun lights and effects, plus dancing and mingling with Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. You know – sort of like the cute Monsters, Inc. dance parties during Halloween parties at Magic Kingdom.

What the matter with your heaaaad, heaaaad….

The actual fruition of Awesome Mix Live was a bit different, though.

The concert is held five times per day at the America Gardens Theatre near the American Pavilion. It’s not a dance party; instead, you get to listen to a selection of hits from Awesome Mix 1 & 2 while seated. Well, ok, it’s supposed to be a selected of Xandarian music, but Star Lord insists on teaching them to perform songs suitable for earthlings. Disney has some backstory available here, but to be honest, I don’t remember a lot of those details being provided at the show.

Star Lord and Gamora are present, but they don’t perform as part of the band. Groot only appears via screen, and Rocket and Drax are not there at all. There’s no crowd mingling. You do, however, get to enjoy some fun lighting and effects.

Check it Out

See Awesome Mix Live at the following showtimes:

1:30 PM
2:30 PM
5:30 PM
6:45 PM
8:00 PM

We visited on a Sunday evening. The line to get into the theatre was not long at all. Guests were allowed in about 20 minutes prior to showtime, and plenty of seating was available.

As always, times are subject to change. Be sure to refer to your official times guide or the My Disney Experience app.

My Thoughts

The Xandarian band was excellent, and they do very well at performing hits from the Awesome Mixes. Buuuut… the show doesn’t feel very Guardians of the Galaxy-y. The addition of Star-Lord and Gamora seemed a little forced and almost like an afterthought. The total absence of Drax and Rocket was disappointing, too.

The 8:00 PM showing started at sunset and ended just after dark. I’m not certain the full effect of lighting, haze, and pyro would be evident during the daylight. To be honest, though, most people probably don’t care.

In all, yes, this is a fun way to spend 20 minutes if you’d like to sit down and relax. It didn’t wow me, though, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it in the future.

Have you seen Awesome Mix Live? What did you think?


Donald’s Dino-Bash: Meet Uncle Scrooge, Launchpad McQuack, Dino Chip & Dale, and More!

Donald’s Dino-Bash: Meet Uncle Scrooge, Launchpad McQuack, Dino Chip & Dale, and More!

To celebrate summer and the arrival of The Incredibles 2, Walt Disney World is offering some exciting new activities in each park as part of an Incredible Summer.

Animal Kingdom is home to Donald’s Dino-Bash, which might just be my favorite of all.

Did you know Donald Duck’s ancestors were DINOSAURS? Well, evidently he only just found out! With the help (um, money) of Scrooge McDuck, he’s gathering all of his friends and having a party in Dinoland USA to celebrate.

Donald’s Dino-Bash consists of adorable character meet and greets during the day followed by a dance party hosted by Chip & Dale at night. The best part? They’re dressed in dino onesies and are the cutest.

Characters to Meet

With the exception of Chip & Dale, who leave for their party at 4:00 PM, most of these characters are out intermittently from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Times are always subject to change, so be sure to check your official times guide or your My Disney Experience app for updates.

The characters were my favorite part of Dino-Bash! Not only are they all adorable, they’re charming, too. Fans of DuckTales (both the revival and the original) will particularly enjoy them, I think.

Daisy Duck

Stegosaurus Chip & Triceratops Dale

Meeting Triceratops Dale and Stegosaurus Chip at Donald's Dino-Bash

Uncle Scrooge

Meeting Scrooge McDuck (Uncle Scrooge) at Donald's Dino-Bash

DuckTales fan? Look out for all of the fun Easter eggs in Scrooge’s area!

Scrooge McDuck's desk area at Donald's Dino-Bash

Scrooge McDuck's bookcase at Donald's Dino-Bash

Scrooge's beautiful trophy for sponsoring Donald's Dino-Bash

Be sure to ask him about his sponsorship of the event – he’s very proud!

Launchpad McQuack

Meeting Launchpad McQuack at Donald's Dino-Bash

Donald Duck

Meeting the host of Donald's Dino-Bash - Donald Duck himself!


Meeting Goofy at Donald's Dino-Bash


Playing with Pluto in the Boneyard at Donald's Dino-Bash!

Pluto’s experience is a little different, as it’s not a formal meet & greet and photo op. He’s just here to play! There’s no PhotoPass photographer present, but if it’s not too busy, Pluto’s friends will take a photo with your phone.


Dance Party

Triceratops Dale at Donald's Dino-Bash

Dale returns to his cheering fans after a quick snack!

When they’re done greeting guests for the day, Chip & Dale head over to their truck-o-saurus (right outside of the Dinoland gift shop) for a Dino-Riffic Dance Party from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. There’s faux snow, bubbles, and music. My favorite part was seeing the chipmunks dance, because they are SO. FLIPPIN’. ADORABLE. This might be a more entertaining event for younger kids, though.

Triceratops Dale at Donald's Dino-Bash

The Truck-o-saurus is just to Dale’s front/left.


Final Thoughts

In all, this is a really cute event! The characters had so much personality, and it was great to see Launchpad and Uncle Scrooge, who rarely make appearances. The dino chipmunks were definitely the standouts.

Lines for meeting all characters were between 5 and 20 minutes when we visited. People of ALL ages seemed to be enjoying them, too.

While the dance party was cute, it had limited value for our group. A family with young kids might adore it, though.

What do you think – are you planning to partake in Donald’s Dino-Bash? Which character are you most looking forward to meeting?

Note: this event was originally announced for “summer” (generally late May – August), but one non-Disney website is claiming it’s now permanent. I haven’t seen that anywhere official, so: plan on Dino-Bash being temporary. If it’s permanent, that’ll just be a nice surprise.

How to Star Wars: What Order to Watch

How to Star Wars: What Order to Watch

Are you tired of hearing May the 4th be with you yet?

Star Wars is a cultural icon.

It’s everywhere. Solo is coming out in a few weeks, the releases of The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi over the holidays for the past few years have been enormous, and an entire Star Wars land is opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios next summer. Plus there are books, animated series, clothing, and toys.

Wampa Cave on Hoth

If you don’t know anything about Star Wars but would like to, where do you start? Most people would assume they should just watch all of the films in chronological order; however, I’ve outlined a few different options below that’ll give you a better understanding of the universe, characters, and lore.

And yeah, you have to watch Clone Wars and Rebels. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out on so much important insight, especially when it comes to episodes 7, 8, and 9. Promise. Oh, and you’ll also never meet some of the franchise’s absolute best characters.

This list doesn’t include graphic novels, novels, or games.

Jedi with lightsaber in front of AT-AT

Okay, now. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…


Option 1: Order of Release (more or less).

You’re watching the movies and shows in the same order the world saw them. Some people don’t like this order because a major reveal happens in The Empire Strikes Back, so you’ll already know about this big thing within the first three movies.

The Originals:

Star Wars: A New Hope (4)

The Empire Strikes Back (5)

Return of the Jedi (6)

The Prequels:

Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

The Animateds:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated film)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated series)

Star Wars Rebels (animated series)

The Sequels:

The Force Awakens (7)

Rogue One (3.5) (Rogue One takes place prior to A New Hope; however, it was released between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. It is not a sequel.)

The Last Jedi (8)

Episode 9 – TBD, holiday 2019


Option 2: Chronological Order

This is the order the films/series take place in relation to one another. There are many dedicated Star Wars, uh, gatekeepers who’ll insist this is the wrong way to do it. You decide for yourself, though. There’s so much to dig through in the prequel era, and the Clones material and timeline can be really confusing. Totally new to Star Wars? This isn’t a bad way to start.

Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated film)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated series)

Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Rebels (animated series)

Rogue One

Star Wars: A New Hope (4)

The Empire Strikes Back (5)

Return of the Jedi (6)

The Force Awakens (7)

The Last Jedi (8)

Episode 9 – TBD, holiday 2019


Option 3: Modified Machete Order

Machete Order was coined by Rod Hilton. You can read his exceptionally thorough 2011 blog post here. Machete Order is as follows: Star Wars: A New Hope (4), The Empire Strikes Back (5), Attack of the Clones (2), Revenge of the Sith (3), and Return of the Jedi (6). Yes, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, is excluded.

But there’s more material in 2018 than there was in 2011, soo… If I were going to add the newer films and shows without changing Rod’s plan, my pick would be:

Rogue One

Star Wars: A New Hope (4)

The Empire Strikes Back (5)

Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (yes, I’m adding this one back, not because it’s a great film, but so you can discuss it with people)

Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated film)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated series)

Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Rebels (animated series)

Return of the Jedi (6)

The Force Awakens (7)

The Last Jedi (8)

Episode 9 – TBD, holiday 2019


Whoa. So… I might be more overwhelmed. What order should I pick?

Confusing, right? I get it. If you’re new to Star Wars and haven’t seen most of the films or animated series, pick either Option 1 or 2. You know yourself best and you can decide whether you might be confused or frustrated by timeline jumps.

Once you’ve done that, then go back and watch Rod’s original Machete Order. Next, watch the Modified Machete Order. See how many new things you notice and what perspectives change.

Happy viewing and please comment below with any questions! I can’t wait to welcome you to the big, nerdy Star Wars family.

Oh yeah, and may the force be with you. 😉

Everything You Need to Know to Make the Most of FastPass+

Everything You Need to Know to Make the Most of FastPass+

FastPass+ is Walt Disney World’s “priority boarding” system. Want to skip the line and hop right onto the ride? With FastPass+, you can!

How do FastPasses work?

Now, it isn’t quite as simple as bypassing every line for every attraction. You can pre-book up to 3 FastPasses per day – for one park per day – in advance. Simply choose from available times, book the pass, return to the attraction at the specified time, tap your Magic Band at the FastPass entrance, and you’re good to go! There is no extra fee.

When can I make my selections?

If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel, you can make FP+ selections for your entire trip starting at 7:00 AM Eastern, 60 days prior to your arrival.

Not staying on property? As long as you have purchased a park ticket or an Annual Pass, you can make selections starting at 7:00 AM Eastern, 30 days prior to arrival.

What’s the process?

Disney makes it really simple, thankfully! There are a few things you need to do first:

  1. Make sure your park tickets are linked to your My Disney Experience account
  2. Making FastPass+ reservations for people other than yourself? Make sure you’re “friends” with all members of your party in My Disney Experience. That way, you can grab FastPasses for everyone at once!

Once that’s all set, just log into My Disney Experience online or open your app, tap your character icon, and then select Get FastPass+ under the My Plans section.

Sadly, you can’t pick the most sought-after attractions for all three of your daily FastPasses. You can choose from one “e-ticket” (a throwback term from when Disney actually used ticket books; it means the most in-demand experiences) attraction and two lower-tier rides or experiences (lower-tier does not mean less fun, btw). For example, at Epcot, you won’t be able to get FastPasses for Soarin’, Test Track, and Frozen Ever After all in the same day. You’ll have to pick one. Then, for your remaining two choices, you can select practically any other ride in the park (Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Gran Fiesta Tour, etc.).

Once selected, your FastPasses are stored in your Magic Band. When you arrive at your FastPass+ attraction, tap your Magic Band to the Mickey on the touchpoint. If it turns green, that means you’re within the correct time window. There’s always a Cast Member present to assist, so don’t worry if the process sounds confusing.

Which FastPasses should I choose?

It depends on your preferences, your travel group, and what your priorities are!

The attractions below generally tend to have the longest lines. For some – looking at you, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – I won’t even attempt to ride without a FastPass because the line is excruciatingly long and tediously boring. Others, like Flight of Passage, I ride without a FastPass all the time. Flight of Passage’s line is usually  completely ridiculous – like 2 – 3 hour waits – but the scenery changes frequently, and that helps pass the time.

Review which experiences are important to you and your travel party, and if you want to experience any of the attractions listed below and can grab a FastPass, do it!

Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Space Mountain
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad


  • Frozen Ever After
  • Soarin’
  • Test Track

Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Tower of Terror
  • Rock’n Rollercoaster

Animal Kingdom

  • Flight of Passage
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Expedition Everest
  • Na’vi River Journey

What happens when I use all of my FastPasses?

If you use all three of your FastPasses, head to a FastPass+ kiosk in the park and you can add one more! Use that one? You can keep adding! You can add via the app as well. Do keep in mind, though, that most of the sought-after FastPasses are booked 60 – 30 days out and are unlikely to be available same-day. The FastPasses you’re most likely to find same-day are ones for attractions that don’t usually require a FastPass – like omnimovers (rides that are constantly moving, like Haunted Mansion), shows, or character meet and greets.

Side note: Personally, I prefer to only use FastPasses when necessary. It’s not going to kill me to wait in a 10 or 15 minute line. What I do want to avoid, though, is a 60 – 90 minute line. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen the FastPass line longer or the same length as the standby line because people are bent on using FastPasses even when they aren’t really needed. If the line is such that you can basically walk on, there’s really no need for a FastPass. (If you’re visiting during a high traffic time, though, that’s a different story.)

What if I can’t get a FastPass+ for the ride I want?

It’ll be ok! Worst case scenario: hit the restrooms, grab a drink, and either read or talk with your family while in line.

Also! People cancel FastPasses all the time, so it’s worth checking the app every day in case something you want opens up.

Since I’m a local passholder and can only book FastPasses 30 days out, most of the in-demand ones (Flight of Passage, cough cough) are gone long before my booking window even arrives. Sometimes, if we have a park day planned in advance, we can get a few FastPasses for our favorite rides. Usually, though, our park days are more spontaneous and we go without FastPasses altogether (gasp!). It helps if you’re avoiding heavy-traffic times (spring break, the holiday season, etc).

There are always strategies you can try to minimize your wait, too. If you want some tips from the community, leave a comment below and let us know which attraction you have your eye on.

Have any questions about the process? Let me know and I’ll be happy to help!


Know Nothing About Disney World? Start Here.

Know Nothing About Disney World? Start Here.

As a person who not only visits Disney World constantly but also writes Disney-focused content in a Disney-focused community, sometimes it’s easy to forget who I write this blog for.


Normal people with lives, careers, families, commitments, and 2.4 million things to juggle. People who don’t always have time to keep up-to-date with every little detail.

Spaceship Earth - Epcot

When I’m always talking with cast members, passholders, and frequent visitors, I sometimes start to think that everyone already knows everything.

But when I overhear conversations (and, let’s be honest, sometimes arguments 😱) in the parks, it serves as a great reminder that there’s a TON of info out there and not everyone has the time or inclination to learn everything beforehand. Heck, if you’re visiting for the first time, you might not realize any of these options are available or even necessary.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - Disney's Hollywood Studios

So if you’re a total Walt Disney World newbie? I’m here for you.

Let’s start with the basics.

Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida (Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, mostly, if you want to get specific, but technically, Disney property lies within multiple counties).

The Walt Disney World Resort area is roughly the size of San Francisco.

Tree of Life - Disney's Animal Kingdom

There are four parks:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Epcot
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom

One shopping/dining/fun district:

  • Disney Springs

Disney Springs

Two water parks:

  • Blizzard Beach
  • Typhoon Lagoon

Two mini golf courses:

  • Winter Summerland
  • Fantasia Gardens

Four “actual” golf courses:

  • Magnolia
  • Palm
  • Lake Buena Vista
  • Oak Trail

And around 25 Disney-owned hotels (this number includes Disney Vacation Club villas). There are also at least a dozen non-Disney hotels on property.

Disney World is often referred to as The Happiest Place on Earth; however, that’s actually Disneyland. Walt Disney World is The Place Where Dreams Come True.

Yes, there’s a lot of info to take in, but we can totally do this the more magic, less stress way: bite-sized blog posts!

What do you want to learn more about next? Let me know in the comments!

Epcot International Festival of the Arts 2018: My Top Picks

Epcot International Festival of the Arts 2018: My Top Picks

Epcot International Festival of the Arts: It’s Back!

2017 was the festival’s inaugural year, and it was smallish, only open Fridays – Mondays. For 2018, the festival is much bigger and runs full-time from January 12 – February 19.

Last year, I thought the Epcot International Festival of the Arts was fun and, you know, fine. This year, though, I absolutely love it. Remember when I joked that Epcot was going the way of all festivals, all the time? I’m still totally ok with that.

All Forms of Art

Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts encompasses all kinds of art: performance, visual, and culinary. Similar to Food & Wine and Flower & Garden, the World Showcase features multiple booths, each with themed fare. Between the food opportunities, you’ll find tents filled with all kinds of original art and prints. Much of it is Disney-themed (which includes Star Wars!), but plenty is not.

In the Odyssey Center, you’ll find seminars, workshops, and even an Animation Academy. The seminars and Animation Academy are complimentary with park admission. The workshops are $39 and need to be booked in advance.

At the Fountainview Plaza, pause to see living statues, painting demonstrations, and live performances. We were fortunate enough to catch Stephen Fishwick creating a painting of Stitch along to music one morning, and it was such a fun and unique experience!

Other fun stuff includes chalk art, screen printing by Enemy Ink, a student gallery, and a huge paint-by-number mural that you can participate in creating.

Are you a Disney on Broadway fan? If so, be sure to visit the America Gardens Theatre. From Monday – Friday, Disney on Broadway stars perform beloved hits from their shows. The lineup for the remainder of the festival:

  • February 2 – 5: Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White
  • February 9 – 12 and 16 – 19: Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland (we saw them last year and they were excellent!)

Oh, and perhaps our family’s favorite: photo ops that allow you to become part of famous paintings.

The Ear Collector Ohana does The Scream and The Mona Lisa - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

My Top Picks

Fun Stuff

  • Figment’s Brush with the Masters. Similar to the traditional Epcot Eggstravaganza (Easter egg hunt), you purchase a map, search around the World Showcase for classic works of art featuring mischievous Figment, place stickers on your map accordingly, and redeem for a fun pin!
  • Enemy Ink. In Future World West (the building right behind Club Cool), you can pick a fun shirt design and watch as Enemy Ink prints it right in front of you!

Figment's Brush with the Masters Prizes - Pins! Epcot International Festival of the Arts


  • Star Wars. Found a Rey piece from Karen Hallion and an Ahsoka print from Danny Haas. MADE MY DAY.  – located near Germany in the World Showcase
  • Sugarboo & Co. This is one of my favorite shops, and I’m so excited they have a booth! – located near Germany in the World Showcase
  • WonderGround Gallery. This is where you can find lots of adorable art, including pieces from Ashley Taylor (I met her once and she’s super lovely, so now I feel like we’re friends. I never said I wasn’t weird.)
  • Disney Fine Art – multiple booths throughout the festival. Lots of happy-making prints.
  • Thomas Kinkade Studios: this is a fun treat, because it’s the style of Thomas Kinkade with Disney elements. Really pretty; great for nostalgia.

Food & Drinks

Refreshment Port (between the World Showcase entrance and Canada)

Croissant Donut with Pastry Cream

Croissant Donut (Cronut!) with Pastry Cream - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

This was delicious, though much larger and messier than expected! The cronut was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The pastry cream was sweet but not too sweet. There was plenty for two people to share, and we’d buy it again!

Pop Eats (between the World Showcase entrance and Mexico)

Cloudem Sparking Wine

Cloudem Sparkling Wine - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

This sparkling wine actually sparkles and shimmers! Not only is it beautiful, but it’s sweet and oh-so-drinkable. Several different colors, including pink and blue, are available, so it’s a fun surprise to see which one you get!

El Artista Hambriento – The Hungry Artist (Mexico)

Tacos de Puerco: Two Corn Tortillas with Slow-roasted Pork Shoulder, marinated in Ancho Paste and served with Sweet Plantain Puree garnished with Pea Tendrils

Tacos de Puerco - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

The Tacos de Puerco are possibly my favorite offering in the entire festival. Tender pork with smoky, slightly spicy sauce and sweet plantain. YUM. Will absolutely get these again.

Cuisine Classique (Germany)

Red Wine-braised Short Rib with Parsnip Puree, Broccolini, Baby Tomatoes, and Aged Balsamic

Red Wine-braised Beef Short Rib - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

I was expecting a bit more of a pot roast-y type dish, so when we saw the plate, I wasn’t sure I’d like this. It also smelled quite heavily of balsamic vinegar, which Mr. EC finds overpowering. Despite our first impressions, though, we loved it.

The beef fell apart when poked with a fork. The balsamic vinegar ended up being a thick, sweet glaze, and it was an amazing enhancement. The parsnip was sinfully delicious, super creamy, and had an almost cheesy flavor.

L’art de la Cuisine Francaise – The Art of French Cooking (France)

Frose: Frozen Cotes de Provence Rose wine with Grey Goose Vodka and Peach Puree

Frose - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

France is known for having great frozen festival drinks, and this is no exception. Sweet, slushy, and delightfully peachy. Also surprisingly strong – it doesn’t even taste alcoholic, but woooo! I ended up with a fierce headache later that day, which confirms I am too old to be drinking things that contain both wine and liquor. But still! The Frose is delicious; I’d get it again (and split with a friend!)

The Masterpiece Kitchen (Canada)

Charcuterie Palette with Artisan Cured Meats and Cheeses featuring Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Beef

Charcuterie Palette - Epcot International Festival of the Arts

At $14, the Charcuterie Palette is one of the most expensive offerings of the entire festival. Truly, though, it was lovingly assembled and beautifully presented.

I have two wishes for this one: more detail about what the palette contains, and there were only two small toasts on the entire platter. That results in a lot of eating straight-up meat with your fingers.

The featured Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Beef was very good! My absolute favorite, though, was the honeycomb-topped blue cheese. There was one item I couldn’t place (that’s why labels would be helpful!) and I wonder if it might’ve been Pate or Fois Grois.

Final Thoughts on 2018’s Epcot International Festival of the Arts

This year’s festival exceeded all expectations! Everything – the art, the food, the activities, heck, even the branding – are wonderful, and I will return as often as possible. It’s even giving my favorite festival – Epcot Flower and Garden – a little competition!

Have you experienced this year’s Epcot International Festival of the Arts? What did you think? What would you recommend?