In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Universal Orlando has some big musical acts helping celebrate Mardi Gras 2019.
  • Check out the new restaurant at Disneyland’s Downtown Disney district.
  • You can get tickets for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party now.
  • Construction continues on DCA’s newest Pixar attraction.
  • And more!

Are you ready to celebrate Mardi Gras 2019? Are you also a fan of musical acts as diverse as Gavin McGraw, Macklemore, and Pitbull? Then I have good news for you, because Universal Orlando has announced the musical talent it’ll be hosting during its two-month-long Mardi Gras celebration. And yes, those three performers are among those you can expect to see on the Music Plaza Stage. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Universal’s offering something for everyone, but if you’re the type who likes the Steve Miller Band more than Pitbull, you’ll still be in luck. (I didn’t think I’d be comparing the Steve Miller Band to Pitbull today, I can tell you that much.) Universal is clearly casting its net wide for musical talent, which should make the Mardi Gras celebrations quite the thing to experience.

If you’ve visited Disney California Adventure in the last six months, you know that Pixar Pier is both the park’s newest land and still a work in progress. The last big piece of the puzzle is a replacement to King Triton’s Carousel, this time a Toy Story-themed carousel where Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (yes, that is her full name, let’s be proper here) is the main attraction. As you can see from this tweet from theme-park aficionado Matthew Gottula, Disney’s filed permits for some large design elements of the carousel, including a 12-foot-tall cactus and a six-foot tall barrel. What I want to echo is what Matthew notes in the rest of his tweet: this carousel will be one of the few kid-friendly attractions in DCA at a time when they badly need to appeal to everyone, not just thrill-seekers. I’m glad to see this carousel eventually come back, because it’s filling a big gap in the touring experience.

That looks pretty good, right? It’s one of many new items at Universal Orlando Resort’s latest addition, Universal’s Aventura Hotel. From this article, which notes that the hotel was “thoughtfully designed” (as opposed to…thoughtlessly designed hotels? I’m not sure), Aventura has a lot of exciting food options for the adventurous palate including the bao buns pictured above. You can find the bao buns at the Bar 17 Bistro, or maybe you’d like some grilled Spanish octopus or duck confit with turmeric citrus aioli? Scratch that, maybe I’d like these because I’m making myself hungry just talking about the food. Add to that the “Botanical” cocktail, a mix of dry gin, orange juice, lemon, lime, and strawberry, and boy, I think I’d rather be at this Bar 17 Bistro right now.

And yet, we move on. Now, would you like to hear something scary? Something really scary? I’ve got something truly terrifying for you: tickets for the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party event at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando are now on sale! And listen, I’m not kidding: the fact that tickets for this event are on sale in January is kind of ridiculous to me. But then, the first date for the Halloween-themed event is August 16, suggesting the reality that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a massive money-maker for the House of Mouse. I’ve not yet hunkered down to attend one of these either at Disneyland or Disney World, but it’s unquestionably a huge hit across both parks. So get your tickets now! Celebrate Halloween in August! Why not?

Downtown Disney has a new tenant, as Ballast Point Brewing Company has opened in Anaheim. Taking the location once held by Build-a-Bear Workshop and Ridemakerz (the latter of which is “What if Build-a-Bear, but for toy cars?”), Ballast Point is a restaurant with a brewpub-style menu (as opposed to, I guess, just being a brewpub), with everything from flatbreads to salads to sandwiches and pizzas. The restaurant, designed to have a nautical theme (which I highly approve of, sincerely), also boasts what its name might suggest: a lot of beer. More than 50 different beers, some of which are brewed on site. What I’m really telling you is that the next time I go to Disneyland, I’ll be stopping here, because as much fun as Build-a-Bear was, I’d rather build a beer instead. (I’d apologize for the pun, but I’m not sorry.)

While Universal Studios Orlando will be living it up for Mardi Gras, Universal Studios Hollywood won’t be slacking for February celebrations. Specifically, they’ve announced details regarding their Lunar New Year celebration from February 2 to February 17. The celebrations will feature characters from, as the post here states, “your favorite movies” including Kung Fu Panda and the Transformers franchise. (Yes, it’s true, the Transformers movies are among my very, very favorite, he wrote with no sarcasm virtually dripping in his voice.) Universal Plaza will feature a Dragon Warrior Show with Kung Fu Panda characters, and you can get some Asian-inspired dishes at Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop, too. And you can also encounter Megatron speaking Mandarin, a tradition that brings new meaning to the word “tradition”. I might just stick to the Dragon Warrior Show and Mr. Ping’s.

Here’s a heartwarming story for you to enjoy: Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a new cast member. Don’t worry, this isn’t a job that you could’ve applied for, and the perks aren’t the same as a typical job at the parks. That’s because I’m talking about a baby giraffe, born on Monday, January 14. This new Masai giraffe calf, born to Mara the giraffe, arrived at just around six feet tall. (At age 34, I’m just over 6’2″, so I guess I’d be right around the same size as a baby giraffe.) Because the giraffes are largely part of Kilimanjaro Safaris, the ride was shut down for most of the day Monday to keep mom and child safe and happy. But some guests got to see the childbirth as it happened, proving that you genuinely never know what you’ll experience on this attraction, one of Animal Kingdom’s best.

As a huge fan of the Toy Story films, I have been approaching Toy Story 4 with a lot of caution, none more so after the first teaser, which introduced us all to a new character called Forky. See, it’s a kitchen utensil that Bonnie has turned into a toy, because…sure. Anyway, one reason I got more wary is that the early word was that Toy Story 4 was about Woody on the hunt for his lost love, Bo Peep. I mention all of this because none other than Bo and her sheep will be part of a new topiary at this year’s International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. Hopefully, that means Bo will have a more major part in the new film, Forky be damned. The topiaries at the Flower and Garden Festival are always quite lovely and memorable, so make sure to keep an eye out if you’re visiting.

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