Experiencing the magic of Gluhwein.
I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to start trying treats from the holiday kitchens at Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays (yes, I’m probably gonna slip up and call it Holidays Around the World a time or two!).
Yep – as we move toward All Festivals, All The Time at Epcot (I’m ok with this) Holidays Around the World has grown and officially become Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays. If you’ve never experienced it, imagine a winter holiday-themed Flower & Garden or Food & Wine. If you’ve never experienced either of those, imagine lots of little kiosks with internationally themed and inspired foods and drinks.
These items are at the top of my “must try” list:
Chocolate Peppermint Glazed Croissant Donut
Yukon Holiday Kitchen (Canada)
Ice Wine Flight. ICE WINES. Winessss. Plural. More than one. Yes please. Merry Christmas, Kevin.
Maple Buche de Noel. A kind of maple and gingerbread yule-roll-type thing. I need it. Canada has a special place in my heart; maybe it’s because I spent three years living between Seattle and Vancouver, BC. Maybe it’s because of their delicious foods like nanaimo and poutine. Maybe it’s a little because of Justin Trudeau. I guess we can’t be sure.
Alsace Holiday Kitchen (France)
Spiced Rum Punch Slush. I haven’t yet met an Epcot slush I didn’t enjoy, and this one is delightfully red and contains spiced rum, orange, and cinnamon. It sounds SO endearingly Christmassy, I can practically hear sleigh bells and reindeer hooves. I’m just picturing drinkable holiday cheer. Side note: I wasn’t really even considering trying this (not much of a rum person) until Disney Food Blog tempted me with their photo and review. Now, it’s one of the items I’m MOST excited about.
Hokkaido Holiday Kitchen (Japan)
Cinnamon Mochi Cake: Cinnamon and Coconut Cake. I’m in love with cinnamon this time of year and I always love coconut, so what could go wrong?
Strawberry Nigori Sake Cocktail: Semi-sweet Unfiltered Sake with Puréed Strawberry. I’ve never had Sake because I’m afraid it’ll taste like gasoline, but this sounds so juicy and tempting.
American Holiday Table
Slow-Roasted Turkey with Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cranberry Sauce. All the holiday foods in one boat. I’ll take it.
Chocolate Apple Shake featuring Twinings Winter Spice Herbal Tea and Bols Butterscotch Schnapps. Oh. Em. Goodness. Also available in a nonalcoholic version.
Cocoa Candy Cane: Nestlé Chocolate Delights Hot Cocoa with Peppermint Schnapps. Yuuuuup. Pretty sure this is the kind of thing you’re supposed to leave out for Santa.
Bavaria Holiday Kitchen (Germany area)
So basically, I’m gonna need this entire menu. It offers a bunch of my favorite holiday things: cheese, melted cheese, mulled wine, and cider. My heritage is Bavarian so I feel especially validated in my love for those foods, too.
German Artisan Cheese Plate: German ButterKase with Ham, Mushroom Brie with Pretzel Crostini, and Tillamook Cheddar. Had this last year. Having it again this year. The ButterKase is so creamy (imagine Gouda meets Munster, maybe?) and the Mushroom Brie gives a little something extra to one of my favorite everyday cheeses.
German Artisan Cheese Plate
Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl with freshly steamed Baby Vegetables and Marble Potatoes. Also had this last year. It involves melted cheese, so I’m DEFINITELY having it again. You can’t go wrong with melted cheese at any time, but hot, melted cheese on a cold Florida evening, surrounded by evergreens and fairy lights? Heart eyes.
Hard Apple Cider and Hard Blackcurrant cider. Oh yeah. Mmm hmm.
And last but not least, my personal favorite: Glühwein! Imagine red wine mulled with clementine, cinnamon, and every delicious Christmas spice imaginable. HOLIDAY JUICE, if you will. You drink it warm, and it is perfection.
Gluhwein makes me happy.
Tuscan Holiday Kitchen (Italy)
Panettone alla Milanese: Warm Italian Fruit Cake with Vanilla Sauce and Cherry Syrup 😳
(If the words “fruit cake” scare you, Panettone is not very similar to the heavy, sticky thing I bet you’re picturing. The versions I’ve had have been more akin to a light, fluffy raisin bread.)
Norway: Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
Traditional Holiday Rice Cream. No idea if this is different from the rice cream served at Kringla Bakeri year-round, but I’m kind of hoping for something with apple, cardamom, and raisins – yummm.
The Cookie Nook (Odyssey Center)
Warm Apple Fritter with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Warm Caramel Sauce
Gingersnap Cookie with Cream Cheese Icing and Cranberry Jam
Florida Orange Groves Winery Sparkling Cranberry Wine
Someone please fetch me a paper bag to breathe into.
Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen (Mexico)
Tostada de Tinga: Crispy Corn Tortilla smothered with Black Beans, topped with Chipotle Chicken and garnished with Crema Mexicana, Queso Fresco, Avocado, and Tomatillo Sauce. “Oooohhhhh” is the only commentary I’ve got right now.
Okay, well, now I’m starving. Someone we know will probably be leaving Epcot quite a few dishes fuller bit also several dollars poorer.
Your turn! Are you visiting Epcot during International Festival of the Holidays? What are you most eager to try? Have you experienced any of the dishes I’m longing to get? If so, what did you think?
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The post-Disney depression is real, you guys.
On the last day of our last visit to Walt Disney World, Dane and I sat next to the window near the water wheel at Port Orleans Riverside, eating a late breakfast/early lunch. I felt overwhelmingly and astonishingly hopeless over having to leave and return to normal life.
Sure, I’d miss the castles, characters, and amazing food, but what was I really upset about? Returning to a hectic, stressful job that left me attached to my phone and expected to answer work calls and emails and solve problems practically 24 hours a day. Not being able to take a day off without clients being angry. The same routine day after day with nothing new. No creativity and very little fun.
While I couldn’t take the castle home with me, I could take the very best part of vacation: the way I felt at WDW. Constant wonder and awe. Laughter all day long. Great conversations. Lots of exercise. Amazing food. Taking beautiful photos. Feeling so physically tired and mentally fulfilled at the end of the day, then waking up refreshed and excited to do it all over again. No feelings of stress rising in my body like mercury in a thermometer whenever my phone would ring or the little red email indicator would pop up. No expectations to respond to non-urgent emails at 7:00 AM on a Sunday. No feeling growly, irritated, or stuck.
The problem wasn’t only that I needed more vacation… the problem was I didn’t really like my life.
So, how could I (and how can you!?) incorporate the best parts of a Disney vacation in my (your) daily life?
Figure out what you love so much about Disney World and incorporate it into your life. Is it the sense of discovery? The hundreds of details? Leisure time, sweet moments, and laughter with your friends and family? Getting lots of exercise and spending time out in the sunshine? Cute characters and nostalgic music at every turn? The opportunity to try a huge variety of food and adult beverages?
Think it over. Write it out. If you brought more “magic” into your life, what would it look like for you? For me, it meant accepting a position that didn’t demand every moment of my time (nor the use of my personal phone!), reclaiming my downtime, taking my dogs to the bluffs on the weekends (fun and exercise for all of us!), subscribing to a WDW-related podcast and a Disney Pandora station, and cooking a few adventurous things. Later, it meant moving to a new city for my husband’s dream job, getting really clear on what I wanted for my life and work, minimizing our possessions and living space, and spending weekends immersed in the magic of Disney.
For you, it might look different! You might want to make some big changes like I did, or you may be able to make a few small changes and be totally pleased! It all depends on you and what you’re seeking.
But while you’re mulling it over – or even if you really love your life but just want to add more Disney to your days – Here are a few fun, actionable things to try:
If you’re an American living in suburbia, chances are you got WAY more exercise at WDW than you get at home. Make time for some long walks outside. You’ll feel so much better!
Indulge in your favorites.
Did you fall in love with a particular dish or drink from one of the parks? Look for that soda or beer locally, or re-create that awesome steak or cupcake at home. Or, if your favorite treats are small and portable (hello, matcha KitKats from the Japan Pavilion), stock up to enjoy them in your “normal” life!
Discover your own city.
Instead of heading to your usual sushi place on Friday night, try the new one. You know that cute bistro downtown you’ve been longing to try? Go! How about that yoga studio you’ve been curious about, or that fundraiser 5k you’re working up the courage to sign up for? Try the things! Chances are, there’s a lot of cool stuff around you that you just haven’t experienced yet.
Add some Disney to your day.
Use your princess mug at the office. Make your desktop background the amaaaazing photo you took of Happily Ever After. Save your PhotoPass pictures on your phone so you can flip through them when your day needs a magical boost. Like I mentioned above, I subscribed to a podcast and and a Pandora station so I could get Disney news and sing along to songs from my childhood. It helped make my commute a lot more fun!
Share the joy.
There’s a big, lovely Disney community on Instagram, and we’d be thrilled to welcome you! Come say hi to me (@theearcollector) and check out the gems I follow.
One of my favorite tips comes from fellow Disneygrammer @wishesdishes_wdwdelights: Plan your next vacation! If you won’t be traveling anytime soon, you can always pretend plan. How fun is it to daydream about the parks you’ll visit, the rides you’ll experience, and the treats you’ll devour!?
To summarize, my top tips for easing post-Disney depression:
- Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and water.
- Think about the small things you can do to make your life happier. Implement them. How about big things? Start working on those.
- What did you love about Disney World? Add more of that to your life: great exercise, dinners with friends, time in the sun, white space to daydream, and so forth.
- Look for new ways to explore and enjoy your hometown.
- Bring plenty of Disney home with you: snacks, mugs, souvenirs – anything you’d like! Make a point to enjoy these things regularly.
- Add some magic to your day! Plan a weekly Disney-related family movie or game night. Display a figurine of your favorite character. Listen to a Disney podcast. Hop into the Disney community on your favorite social media outlet.
- Start planning your next visit!
What are your favorite ways to soothe post-Disney depression? Let us know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: this post does obviously not use the term “depression” in a clinical sense. If you’re struggling, please check out the resources available to you. ❤️
Once upon a time, the land on which Pandora sits was intended to be dedicated to mythical creatures. 🦄🐲
Such a land is exactly my cup of tea. A land devoted to a James Cameron movie sounded, frankly, boring and self-congratulatory af. Yes, okay, the movie was visually pleasing, but that’s about it. I couldn’t imagine what Disney was going to do with “Avatarland” and how it would be special in any way. Would I visit and probably find some things to enjoy? Sure. But was I anxiously, excitedly waiting for opening day? Not really.
Well, I was really wrong.
Pandora, the Land of Avatar, is stunning, and you don’t have to care a lick about the film or subject matter in order to enjoy it.
Small but mighty, this newly-opened land is full of lush, alien-looking flora and majestic floating mountains. The level of detail is impeccable.
Amidst the vegetation, you’ll see a few earthling-made ruins. One of my favorite details was, oddly enough, the bathroom exterior doors. They look futuristic yet distressed in a post-apocalyptic kind of way.
And, at nighttime, everything glows.
Flight of Passage
In a word: whoa. The queue is massive and oh-so-detailed. We waited in line for just over three hours, and the experience was totally worth it. Never thought I’d say that about a ride, but here we are.
I’ve never experienced a ride like this. It’s a little like Soarin’ and a little like Star Tours, but more intense than both of those and more of a thrill ride than I expected. It also felt way more advanced than anything else on Disney property.
I still cannot wrap my head around the technology. “Impressive” doesn’t begin to do it justice – it was like being in a different world. Instead of being in a big room with dozens of other guests, you’re in a small room with only 14 others. You also get your very own seat – others have compared it to a motorbike (you can test out one of the seats just outside of the ride if you’re concerned about ergonomics or comfort). In addition to feeling your banshee breathe beneath you, you’ll feel the breezes and mists of Mo’ara.
Now, I hate drops and there are definitely a few drops and swoops. But I’ll ride it again. It’s just too cool not to.
If you can get a FastPass for this one, do. Even if you can’t, I still think it’s worth the wait. Just come prepared (hit the restrooms, grab a small snack if needed, and bring a spare phone charger).
Na’vi River Journey
The river journey is a dark ride with no drops or splashes. The boats have two rows of four, so they’re considerably smaller than the boats you’re used to from Pirates, Small World, and Frozen. They’re also pretty comfortable and quite a bit nicer than the older ride boats.
As you probably gathered from the title, you’ll float down the river and experience the plants and animals of Mo’ara. The visuals are beautiful, and the level of detail is, once again, amazing. The entire ride reminds me of the scene from the movie with the glowing anemones/wisps/dandelion fluff things. Eventually, you’ll find the Na’vi Shaman, who is stunningly life-like.
In all, Na’vi River Journey is beautiful and makes for a great opportunity to sit and cool off, but it’s nowhere near as mind-blowing as Flight of Passage.
One change I would make: narration! Tell us about all of the gorgeous plants, animals, and people we’re encountering!
Advertised wait time was 65 minutes, and we were through in a little less than that. The line did move continuously, so the wait didn’t feel super long. I don’t know if this is worth waiting multiple hours for, but I’m fine with right around one hour. Save your FastPass+ for Flight of Passage.
You’ve almost certainly seen photos of this stand’s most festive looking beverage: the non-alcoholic Night Blossom. With flavors of lime, apple, and pear, this purple and green slush looks as pretty as it tastes. It’s also topped with passion fruit boba, which adds an extra pop of fun and flavor (literally). It’s similar in flavor to Epcot Flower & Garden Festival’s beloved Violet Lemonade, too, so bonus!
In addition to the Night Blossom, Pongu Pongu offers a strawberry margarita and a few themed beer selections.
Food-wise, the stand offers lumpia. Instead of the traditional savory recipe, this lumpia is super sweet and filled with cream cheese and pineapple. Tasty but OH SO SWEET.
Find Pongu Pongu under the big robot.
Satu’li Canteen is Pandora’s quickservice outlet. The decor is a combination of modern industrial and rusty ruins, much like the restroom doors I like so much.
There are huge indoor and outdoor seating areas, which I appreciate SO much. How un-fun is it to walk around with a tray full of food and not be able to find a table? I also noticed a sign stating that seating was for Satu’li Canteen diners only, which I appreciated even more. The only thing worse than walking around with a tray full of food and not being able to find a table is finding HEAPS of tables that are occupied by people sitting and playing on their phones, not even dining at that outlet. 😡
The menu is really different from the standard theme park fare, and I’m super excited about that! You can choose from two types of entrees for lunch and dinner: pods or bowls.
The Cheeseburger Pods, though an unusual concept, taste just like a McDonald’s cheeseburger. So weird, yet so good! This was Mr. EC’s pick, but I’d certainly be open to ordering my own in the future.
In addition to being delicious, the bowls are a great opportunity to get some healthier-ish food in the parks. I can’t tell you how often I’d love some fresh greens but can really only get an iceberg salad or something fried or on a bun (which, don’t get me wrong, sometimes I totally love). With the bowls, base options include quinoa with vegetables, sweet and red potatoes, rice, or kale and spinach. Protein options are beef, chicken, fish, or tofu. There were four sauces available, but I can only remember black bean and onion flavors.
My bowl had the quinoa and veggie base (quinoa, little bits of sweet potato and broccoli, and a few good handfuls of greens and kale), chicken (nicely seasoned, chargrilled thigh meat), crunchy slaw, and the black bean sauce (which was basically a kickin’ vinaigrette). All bowls are topped with crunchy slaw and boba (which I think is coconut flavored).
Word of warning: the black bean sauce doesn’t necessarily taste oniony or garlicky, but I’m told I had fire breath after our meal. So, if you’re on a date or something, bring a mint. 😂
Satu’li Canteen also serves breakfast, so I’ll update once I have an opportunity to try it.
Windtraders is Pandora’s main shop, and it’s full of things I don’t necessarily need but still really want: bubble wands, Pandoran animals, heaps of Na’vi gear, bubble wands, and sooo much glow gear.
The shop’s most popular feature is the Banshee Rookery, where you can adopt your very own baby Ikran.
photo credit: Alberto Y.
Or maybe you want to have your face scanned and have a Na’vi action figure created in your likeness? Because you totally can!
I first visited Windtraders not really caring about the Na’vi, but I left wanting to BE a Na’vi (and needing all of the appropriate gear).
Should You Go?
Yes, you should, even if you don’t care about the movie or the characters. Go to see the sights, experience the rides, and try the treats. It really is like nothing else.
I was totally wrong about Pandora, and I’m so glad.
Have you visited? Leave a comment below and tell me what you thought! Have any questions about Pandora or anything you’d like me to check on? Let me know!
Why does it feel like just last week that Epcot Flower & Garden Festival was starting and everyone was excited for the debut of Beauty and the Beast?
On Monday, Flower & Garden comes to an end and I still haven’t made it to the theatre for B&TB. 😱
Where does the time go? I’m not ready to say goodbye to Flower and Garden.
This is my favorite festival of the year, so I’ll be braving the Memorial Day crowds to have one more go of taking in the beauty, enjoying my favorite seasonal treats, and attempting to try all the things I haven’t been able to get my hands on.
The Must Have at Least One More Time list:
- Desert Violet Lemonade. Obviously. This Instagram darling is sweet, tart, and fruity. And it’s a slush. Oh yeah. The perfect spring drink. – Pineapple Promenade (near the start of World Showcase, just a bit before Canada)
- Watermelon Salad. I’d buy a whole bucket of this is they’d let me. Peppery arugula, lush, juicy watermelon, tart, creamy feta cheese, the syrupy zing of balsamic glaze, and the astringent sweetness of pink pickled onions. I’m not an onion fan – raw onions especially (they taste like fire), but I loooove these pink pickled onions. – Urban Farm Eats (along the path between the Imagination Pavilion and the World Showcase)
- Candied Strawberries. These are so strange and so delicious! Imagine a skewer of bright, plump strawberries coated in an almost savory sesame-esque brittle candy. – Lotus House (China)
- M.S.G: Mango Wine, Strawberry and Ginger Ale. This was DELICIOUS. If you like peach or lychee (neither of which are in this drink, but, you know), you’ll like this. SO fruity and refreshing! – Lotus House (China)
The Would Really Like to Have at Least One More Time if Life Permits List:
- Nanaimo Bar Trifle. Creamy and comforting, this is like an extra-decadent chocolate and coconut layered pudding. – Northern Bloom (Canada)
- La Vie en Rose Slush. Essentially a strong, exponentially more delicious version of a vodka cranberry with a hint of Saint Germain. The pale pink color is exceedingly pleasing. – Fleur de Lys (France)
- Watermelon Cucumber Slush. Hydrating, summery, and fruity. I’ve had the alcoholic version (gin) twice, once was perfection and the other was stunningly strong. The non-alcoholic version is equally delightful. Sweet, but not too sweet. – Florida Fresh (between France and Morocco)
- Frushi. This fruit sushi is a festival staple! Cute, novel, and tasty. – Hanami (Japan)
- Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans. So good! Warm, caramelly, and spicy. – The Smoke House: Barbecue and Brews (US)
- Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños. I really liked this one! Mega flavorful and just a teensy bit spicy. I love a good mingle of jalapeño and cheese flavors! – The Smoke House: Barbecue and Brews (US)
The These Sound Really Good and I Want to Try Them Before They’re Gone List:
- Avivé Natural Peach Sparkling Wine – Urban Farm Eats
- Ciderboys Strawberry Magic Hard Strawberry Cider – Cider House (UK)
- Caribe Blood Orange Tropical Hard Cider – Cider House (UK)
- Carne Asada with Black Bean Cake and Cilantro Lime Cream Cheese – Florida Fresh
- Meatball Parmigiana: Hand-made Beef and Veal Meatballs, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Parmigiana and Fresh Basil – Primavera (Italy)
The Mr. EC’s favorites list:
- Currywurst with Curry Ketchup and Paprika Chips – Bauernmarket (Germany)
- The aforementioned Violet Lemonade
- The aforementioned Nanaimo Bar Trifle
- Beef Tenderloin Tips – Northern Bloom (mentioned below)
And finally, Things I Have Tried:
- Warm Wild Berry Buckle with Pepperberry Sorbet. Nothing at all wrong with this one, but I felt the flavors were much more suited to the holiday season instead of spring. – The Berry Basket
- Spicy Hot Dog with Pineapple Chutney and Plantain Chips. This was unusual and tasty, but the hot dog itself was a bit too spicy for my liking. – Pineapple Promenade
- Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables. SUPER flavorful. The beef could’ve been more tender, though. – Northern Bloom (Canada)
There you have it! Will you be visiting Epcot this weekend? Which treats are your favorite, and which would you avoid if given the opportunity to experience again?