Alana Visited Mango’s Tropical Café

On a random Tuesday night, Alana was allowed to pick any one place to have dinner. We drove down International Drive and Alana selected Mango’s Tropical Café, a new restaurant that recently opened to major fanfare. Mango’s is extremely popular down in Miami and is currently building buzz in Orlando, so we took a chance and stopped for dinner without any clue what to expect. And we were blown away by what we found.

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After valeting the car, Alana stopped to meet some performer friends at a photo-op on the way into the restaurant. Floor seating requires reservations, but the manager was kind enough to invite us to a table that hadn’t been reserved.

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The venue is incredible. There’s a large stage with live music and a rotation of singing, dancing and variety acts – all with Central and South American flair. The outfits are extravagant and beautiful. The dances are so impressive to see live. And the best part is that the show continues throughout the evening so you’re free to join or leave at any time. We intended to only visit for a bit but ended up staying for hours.

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Occasionally, performers work their way through the crowd and greet guests while they continue to perform. Alana seized every opportunity to say Hi to friends as they passed by.

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We even recognized a few familiar faces from our visits to the theme parks!

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Overall, Mango’s is beyond impressive and we highly recommend to everyone we know. It’s become a monthly tradition for us to hit up the shows and we’ll be back again soon.

Alana Visits Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Alana’s favorite event of the entire year is Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando.  Besides Macy’s Parade, there’s really no other event like it during the year.  The streets are lined with performers doing meet-and-greets for hours.  Beyond pictures, the performers get park guests to dance, tell jokes and play games.  Alana loves spending hours going up and down the street visiting with all the different performers – easily more than 30 in any given night.  And by visiting week after week, Alana gets to see all of her Mardi Gras friends before they dance down the streets in the nightly Mardi Gras parade.

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All of Alana’s (or, in this case, Spider-Alana’s) Mardi Gras friends are so sweet to always stop to take great photos with her.

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Matching Green Bows with this Musician!

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Alana impressing all the Italian guys with her peacock dress.

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Walking down the street with two of her favorite performers.

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Big kisses from Alana’s Mardi Gras friends!

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Apparently Minions have the power to shatter slap-bracelet swords!

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This friend was so happy to see Alana in her Minion dress.

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Alana was especially happy to wear her peacock dress and meet this performer wearing her peacock outfit.  Twins!

Goodbye Nick Hotel

We’ve always had a lot of fun during our visits to Nick Hotel.  The hotel was filled with fun activities and unique characters that you couldn’t meet other places in Central Florida.  Unfortunately the hotel never catered to locals, requiring an overnight stay to partake in the on-site activities, so our visits were few and far between.  The hotel recently announced daily passes, which worked perfect for us as locals.

Nickelodeon Hotel recently celebrated their tenth birthday, but unfortunately it appears this will be their last.  The hotel recently announced they would be converting to a Holiday Inn and removing all characters from the property.  This is a huge bummer because all these unique characters would be going away.

So we took one last opportunity to visit Nick Hotel and meet as many characters as we could.

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Before meeting characters, Alana and Ella shared a slime shake.  It was really great!

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Our first meet was with Marshall and Chase from Paw Patrol.

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Big kisses for Chase!

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Alana has met SpongeBob SquarePants many times at Universal Orlando, but it was nice to find him at Nick Hotel.  Alana even brought her SpongeBob outfit for the day.

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One of the cool perks at Nick Hotel is a great pool with a daily sliming.  A giant bucket of slime is filled and dumped on all the kids waiting at the bottom.  Alana and Ella kept their distance so they stayed dry.

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Another great perk of the resort is nearly-daily productions of Double Dare.  The show chooses random families from the resort to participate in trivia and challenges to win big prizes.

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Alana was chosen to participate in the audience challenge!

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We started wrapping up the day by meeting her friend from Team Umizoomi.

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And finished our day with our main objective, a meet with Sandy Cheeks from SpongeBob SquarePants.  Alana even had the opportunity to practice her ninja skills.  Nick Hotel is also home to Mrs Puff and Mr Krab, but unfortunately these characters were retired before Alana had the opportunity to meet them.  But seeing Sandy was a real treat.

Overall we had a great experience this day.  We’ll miss the resort and wish we had the opportunity to have visited more in the past.  If you are interested in visiting the resort before it closes in mid-April, be sure to visit NickHotel.com.

Club Villain at Hollywood Studios

Club Villain is a limited-time event at Hollywood Studios that combines villains with live entertainment.  It was a perfect night that we recommend to everyone interested in this type of event.  The event is held in a sound stage behind Rock’n Roller Coaster.    Dr Facilier is the host of the event and brings together Cruella De Vil, the Evil Queen, Maleficent and the Queen of Hearts to perform songs and meet with guests.  Dinner is also included in the event, with most of the food based on Dr Facilier and desserts based on his four villain friends.

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Dr Facilier’s voodoo charms adorned the walls.  They were animated and sang along with some of the songs.

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Dr Facilier also brought two dancing girls with him.  Alana loved hopping in and dancing with them.

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After dinner, the meet and greets began.  Of course Alana brought a costume change for each villain.  She was especially excited to meet the Queen of Hearts because she dressed like her for Halloween last year.  Also, this is the first time we are aware of the Queen of Hearts appearing as a face character.

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Alana absolutely adored Cruella De Vil and would have spent the entire evening with her if allowed.

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Maleficent was a little scary, but told Alana that she could take a picture because she knew that Alana wasn’t the real Princess Aurora.

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The Evil Queen was taken aback by Snow White’s beauty.  Alana also pointed out that we forgot to bring her red apple for the event.  Apparently five costume changes weren’t enough.

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Speaking of apples, this amazing disco ball floated above the middle of the dance floor.

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Dr Facilier didn’t offer formal meet and greets.  He offered to take a picture with Alana, but she was a little afraid of him – which is ironic because she loved him at home and has met him several times before.  He organized a dance party and waved at Alana as he danced by.

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At the end of the night, Alana and all of her new friends danced for the rest of the event.

Overall this event was so much more than we expected when we originally bought tickets.  There are limited scheduled dates and the show has been extended so definitely try to get tickets if there are any left.

Alana’s Fourth Birthday at Universal

When Alana turned three, we drove to Universal so she could purchase her very first Annual Pass.  So it felt appropriate to do the same on her fourth birthday.  Once renewed, Alana had free reign to choose anything she’d like in the entire park.  And of course she chose her two favorites – Straight Outta Food Truck and the Superstar Dance Parties.

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Dora is so excited that Alana is now four years old!

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Patch and Bit from the movie Hop gave Alana extra snuggles on her birthday!

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All of Alana’s fish friends visited her for her birthday.  It’s the first time all four took a picture with her at the same time.

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She finished the afternoon with her Minion recruit friends.  All in all, a really fun day doing Alana’s favorite things at Universal.

Alana Met Christmas Characters Aboard the Disney Dream

We just got home from Alana’s first cruise.  We sailed on the Disney Dream to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay, and it just happened that sailing in November means we boarded Disney’s Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise.  Many of Alana’s Disney friends would be wearing their Christmas best, so this was a perfect opportunity to do some new character hunting.

Overall, we were extremely successful.  We met 27 characters, including 24 that were brand new meet-and-greets.

Before I start, here are a few tips:

  • Before boarding, download the Disney Cruise app.  Once you sync with the ship’s WiFi, you’ll be able to access an itinerary that lists all character meets, times and exact locations.
  • Start early.  Lines were much shorter on the first night than the last night.
  • Attend all character events.  Many of the events seemed like nothing, but there would be surprise meets after the event.  We missed a few characters because we didn’t realize this in time.
  • Focus on rare characters.  There’s many common characters on the ship, but it took a lot of time to meet all of these characters.  We made time for all formal dinners, all three stage shows (which were amazing), pool time, beach time and more – but there wasn’t any time for resting.

SAILOR FRIENDS

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We started by meeting Captain Mickey in the cruise terminal before boarding the ship.  This was a lucky break, as we didn’t see Captain Mickey doing meets anywhere else on the ship throughout the rest of the cruise.

During the Sail-Away party, we saw all the core characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale) wearing their nautical/sailor uniforms.  These are the regular character meets through the year, but not during Halloween and Christmas – and again didn’t see most of them on the ship.

Pluto-Sailor-2015-11-20-02-Disney-DreamWe did found Sailor Pluto later on the first day, but this was the last of the Sailor characters we would meet.

FORMAL CHRISTMAS CHARACTERS

Besides meeting White Christmas Sweater Mickey on the first night, we didn’t find any formal Christmas characters until the third and final day of the cruise.  In the afternoon, Mrs. Claus read a story and invited the children to make a wish.  Their wish came true when these formal characters came out for a 10 minute meet-and-greet.  Later in the night, during the Going-Away party, the characters appeared but again only for 10 minutes.  The last meet was extremely busy because all the families were around for their formal pictures, but we managed to meet a few friends before they had to go away.

Mickey-White-Sweater-2015-11-20-01-Disney-DreamFinding Mickey in his White Christmas Sweater was a real treat.  We found him on the first night, so when he appeared again on the third day, we were able to skip him and focus on other characters – and avoid his line, which was the longest of the last day.

Minnie-Blue-Snowflake-Dress-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamMinnie Mouse in a cool snowman dress.

Goofy-Christmas-Pajamas-2015-11-22-01-Disney-DreamGoofy wearing what looked like Christmas Pajamas.  Alana was extra excited to meet him!

Donald-Green-Sweater-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamWe’ve seen this Donald in pictures, but very excited to meet him in person.

Pluto-Reindeer-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamReindeer Pluto is one of our favorite pictures from the weekend.  Pluto’s nose should have been red though!

Chip-and-Dale-Striped-Sweaters-2015-11-22-03-Disney-DreamWe’ve met Chip and Dale in various sweaters before, but never in these green and red sweaters.

We also saw Santa Goofy and Mickey in a Christmas Tuxedo, but these are characters that we’ve met previously at Walt Disney World, so we passed to focus on new meets.

 

GREEN CHRISTMAS OUTFITS

I was surprised to find that characters met in multiple Christmas outfits, doubling the number of meets we were able to do.  In addition to the formal outfits above, we also met a variety of friends wearing green shirts/dresses covered with poinsettias.

Mickey-Pluto-Green-Christmas-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamWe found Mickey and Pluto on Castaway Cay.  This particular day was extra windy and we’re lucky they still came out.

Minnie-Green-Christmas-02-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamMinnie in her green Christmas dress.  You can see our ship in the background.

Goofy-Green-Christmas-02-2015-11-21-Disney-DreamThe first meet on Day 2 ended up being Goofy in his green Christmas shirt.

Donald-Green-Christmas-01-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamDonald in his green shirt met with guests at Castaway Cay just outside the ship first thing in the morning.  Daisy also met outside, but was wearing her formal Christmas outfit.  Not sure if she has a green Christmas dress like Minnie.

Chip-and-Dale-Green-Christmas-02-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamChip and Dale in their green Christmas shirts.  Also just outside the ship at Castaway Cay, but in the late afternoon while guests were returning to the boat.  We were already on the ship, so we had to leave again to see them.

Stitch-Poinsetta-Lei-2015-11-22-Disney-DreamStitch met in the afternoon after Chip and Dale.

PIRATE NIGHT

The end of Day 2 was Pirate Night on board the ship.  Alana went to the newly-opened Bippity Boppity Boutique to get dressed as Caribbean pirate “Charlotte Goldstealer”, a name given to her by the Boutique.  We seized the opportunity to meet as many pirate characters as we could.

Mickey-Pirate-2015-11-21-01-Disney-DreamPirate Mickey was our top priority and easily had the longest line – maybe 30-40 minutes.

Daisy-Pirate-2015-11-21-Disney-DreamWe missed Pirate Donald, but his line switched to Pirate Daisy, who Alana was just as happy to see.

Chip-and-Dale-Pirates-2015-11-21-04-Disney-DreamPirate Chip and Pirate Dale with Pirate Alana.

Stitch-Pirate-2015-11-21-01-Disney-DreamPirate Stitch was a very popular character to meet.  He met at 10:00pm when there weren’t many activities, so a lot of people came just to see him.

Captain-Hook-and-Mr-Smee-2015-11-21-Disney-DreamWe’ve met Captain Hook and Mr Smee together before, but didn’t have anything else to do at this time so we took the opportunity to see them on Pirate Night.

Captain-Jack-Sparrow-2015-11-21-02-Disney-DreamWe missed meeting Captain Jack Sparrow during Pirate Night, but found him on Castaway Cay with a five minute line.  Very cool location with Caribbean treasure and cannons behind him.

I also saw pictures of Pirate Goofy and Pirate Minnie, but had to miss them.  The cruise schedules activities so no one misses 5:45pm dinner or 8:30pm shows, so they pile up a lot of characters at once, forcing you to make some decisions.  This is where the app comes in handy.  Not only can you plan your time, but you can also choose your activities and your app will plan your itinerary out and send reminders.

OTHER CHARACTERS

While on the ship, we found some other cool characters – but the best was Princess Minnie.

Minnie-Princess-2015-11-20-02-Disney-DreamAlana was so excited to meet a real Princess on the cruise!

In addition to the pictures above, we saw many other characters.  Kids areas had dance parties with Jake (of the Neverland Pirates) and Sofia The First.  Donald in his Green Christmas Shirt led a “Shake Your Tailfeather” dance party in the kids’ area.  You could meet princesses in the lobby of the ship, but needed to get free tickets on the first day before they were gone.  We saw Belle (in her yellow gown), Cinderella and Rapunzel.  The schedule also said there were tickets available to meet Anna and Elsa, but we never saw them on the ship.  We also chose to skip characters we’ve sen before, like Santa Goofy and Christmas Formal Suit Mickey.

Overall, we had an incredible time.  It was exhausting and busy but worth the effort and the photos turned out even better than I could hope.

To check out all of our photos, make sure you follow our Instagram account (filled with Alana’s meets with friends in Disney and Universal) at www.instagram.com/alanaexplains.

Alana Met The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Alana Met The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This past weekend, we visited Nickelodeon Suites Resort and met many great characters, but the highlight of the weekend was meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!  We had two different opportunities to meet them – on Sunday afternoon, there was a staged photo where you could meet all four turtles at once.  And on Saturday evening, we attended a character dining event where you eat Italian buffet while the turtles each visit your table.

TMNT-2015-03-29Alana became a huge fan of the turtles after this weekend.

Leonardo-2015-03-28-02Leonardo leads – and gives big hugs!

Donatello-2015-03-28-02Donatello does machines – and makes a great elbow rest.

Raphael-2015-03-28Raphael is cool but rude – especially while Alana shows off her ninja skills.

Mikey-2015-03-28Michelangelo is a party dude!  Hi Mom!

DSC_0845Before dinner, the Turtles gave a demonstration of their ninja skills.

Foot-Soldier-2015-03-28Alana, look out behind you!  Foot soldier!!

Alana Met Yellow Rabbit!

Alana Met Yellow Rabbit!

Yellow Rabbit has been one of the hardest characters for us to find.  He only appears very rarely, and odds are against you meeting him unless you immediately hop into line.  When he does randomly appear, he usually only stays for one or two sets before disappearing for the day.  After we met him, he only met with two more families before leaving for break – and ultimately being replaced by Tigger.

YellowRabbit_HundredAcreWoods_2015-04-01_01Apr 2015: Alana meets Yellow Rabbit for the first time, after a year of hunting.  She’s excited to get his autograph in her book.

YellowRabbit_HundredAcreWoods_2015-04-01_04Apr 2015:  Alana with Yellow Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh at 100 Acre Woods in Magic Kingdom.

YellowRabbit_HundredAcreWoods_2015-04-01_05Apr 2015:  Big hugs for Yellow Rabbit!

 

 

Alana Met Scuba Mickey

When Alana and I started hunting characters back in early 2014, we would read websites and see pictures of characters that we never imagined we would actually find in the parks.  The top of our Wish List had to be Scuba Mickey.

It seemed like the perfect storm of impossibility.  He has only been seen in the rarest of occassions, usually disappearing for a year at a time.  All water conditions need to be right for Mickey to enter the water.  Once he’s there, he can only stay underwater for a limited time.  And once he appears, a swarm of people will fill the glass, making it impossible to get the perfect picture.  All these things made the task seem impossible.

After a sighting last week and another this week, Alana and I decided to check out the saltwater tank at Nemo & Friends.  After a 45 minute wait, it suddenly happened.  We saw yellow legs lowering into the water, and before I could say anything, a child screamed “It’s Mickey Mouse!” and the glass flooded with people.  Mickey swam by the last for two minutes before heading over to the windows at Coral Reef Restaurant.  Eventually Mickey came back for a few minutes of pictures and underwater backflips before heading back to the surface.

Huge thanks to Molly for entertaining Alana and holding her in these pictures.  And thanks to Willy The Artist for taking much better photos than I could.  We’ve met hundreds of characters but this has to be the best meet ever, right?

Mickey-Scuba-2015-03-27-02-pic-by-willyMar 2015:  Got extremely lucky when we found Scuba Mickey swimming in the tank outside Nemo at Epcot.
Photo Credit:  www.instagram.com/willytheartist

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Mickey-Scuba-2015-03-27-01-pic-by-willyMar 2015:  Another great shot with Scuba Mickey.
Photo Credit:  www.instagram.com/willytheartist

Alana Met Cinderella’s Suzy and Perla!

Our run of meeting rare characters continued this past weekend at Magic Kingdom.  We lined up to meet the Tremaines, but they left after a few minutes – and were replaced with Suzy and Perla!  For months, we’ve heard that Suzy and Perla were meeting in Fantasyland, but had never seen them in person.  We know several people who have seen them, but the line closed before they could join.  Basically these characters come out infrequently and are mobbed when they show up.  So this meet was definitely 100% luck!

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Alana Met Winter-Hood Lady Tremaine

It was a relatively warm morning at Magic Kingdom, so we weren’t expecting to see any characters wearing their winter clothes.  We lucked out and found Lady Tremaine wearing her Winter Hood.  We’ve met Lady Tremaine many times in the past, but this was our first time meeting her in her winter hood, bringing our character count up by one.

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Apparently she’s not too into hugs!

Alana Met Robin Hood!

Huge day today!  We’ve spent countless days attending Characterpalooza events and have met almost all the characters.  But one wily fox evaded us for months.  Just as quickly as he’d appear, he’d disappear for a month or more – just enough to tease that he’s around but remind us that we never met him.

The gates to Characterpalooza were busier than ever.  Because it’s Sunday, there was only one set.  We overheard conversations of people speculating who could be behind the doors, and which rare characters they’d run to first.  Then the gates opened…

The green outfit on the brown fur could be seen from a mile away.  We immediately knew today was magical.  The crowds of people hunting “rare” characters ran right past him to meet Aladdin and other characters there every day.  A lot of people had no idea who he was.  But we knew.  Because we looked for him forever.

The meet with Robin Hood was amazing.  Alana loved the big hugs and had him sign her book, although ironically he’s one of the only characters not in the book because we never found him before.  He posed for pictures and we moved on.  We had enough time to meet some other characters and come back and see him again – because, really, it’ll be forever and a moon before we see him again.

Overall, excellent day at Characterpalooza.  But odd at the same time.  Robin Hood officially marks the final character she has yet to meet at this event.  The driving force for us returning over and over.  Just like the drive to meet the Tweedles (who are fairly regular now at Magic Kingdom) drove us to return over and over through the summer, so is the same for Robin Hood now.  We’ll still return but that prayer for an unmet character is gone – until they break out the next new character!

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