Cirque du Soleil – Toruk, the First Flight

I LOVE CIRQUE!  Cirque du Soleil is one of my favorite things!  The love affair started last fall when we saw Amaluna at the National Harbor in Maryland under the Grand Chapiteau.  Then came Varekai in Fairfax at the Patriot Center in July.  When I found out that there was a brand new touring show based on the movie Avatar, I knew that one would be on my to-do list.

As luck would have it the show, called Toruk – the First Flight, held a handful of preview shows on its way to the official premiere in Montreal on December 21st.  One of the two fit my schedule so we hopped in the car and headed north to Allentown, PA.  I had only been to Pennsylvania one other time in my life that I recall (to Hershey Park) so it was neat to see some new sites on the drive.  I will say that the road system in PA is very different than VA and I’ll take our roads here any day.  🙂

The show was at the PPL Center and had a full audience.  I absolutely loved this performance.  It was visually stunning, as the Cirque shows are, but this one was truly a breathtaking experience.  The set was largely designed around projections on the floor which really made the scenes come to life.  The forests turned to a believable river, then lava, desert, you name it.  Coupled with the sounds and lighting, you really felt immersed in the particular environment that the show was trying to convey.  The performers were top notch and the puppet work was brilliant.  I was swept into the story from the moment it began until it was over.  Should the show come back to our area in the future, I would definitely see it a second time.

I should note that I liked the Avatar movie when it was released a few years back but I was not a die hard fan.  Disney is building an Avatar ‘land’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando and there are a few movie sequels on the horizon so the Avatar buzz is coming back around.  Toruk definitely stirred up interest in the Avatar franchise for me that didn’t exist before.  Bravo!

 

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Thanksgiving means Hilton Head and Hollywood Studios

When the holidays roll around, I like to use that time to spend reconnecting with my husband and daughter.  We find that a great way to do that is to hop on the road (or the skies) and take advantage of the ‘free’ days off from work and other commitments.

We have been enjoying a quick beach weekend over the past few years so this time around we wanted to give Hilton Head Island in South Carolina a try.  We had never visited Hilton Head before but knew it had rave reviews so we took this chance to try Hilton Head by staying at Disney’s Hilton Head Island resort.  Talk about amazing!  Disney’s resort there is the best of both worlds.  The resort itself is on the sound side of the island so it has a woodsy feel with all the activities of a marsh area like crabbing, fishing, listening to the trees at night..nature at its finest.  You can also enjoy the pool, cornhole, shuffleboard, bike rides, scheduled activities like Goofy Bingo and crafts, plus so much more.

The bonus though with this resort is the Beach House.  A bike, car, or shuttle ride away (about a mile and a half) is the ocean and Disney’s Beach House.  I wasn’t sure what the Beach House would be like but color me impressed.  The facility is only accessible by your resort key card so the exclusivity is nice.  I’m sure it is hopping in the summer but this lovely fall day meant lower crowds but still quite a few people enjoying the pool, plentiful lounge chairs, foosball, and lounge area here.  A quick walk down a sandy path takes you out to the beach itself and that was wonderful.  While the water was rather cold, the sand felt so nice, and the sun was warm enough to give me my traditional Thanksgiving burn.  Definitely will be making a stop here next year.

After Hilton Head, we just had to drive the next five hours south to Disney World.  When I found out that this was going to be the 20th and final year of the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios, I dropped a night at Hilton Head and quickly added a night at the Beach Club resort at Disney World.  I knew that this would be a quick trip down to the World but so worth it to see the Osborne Lights one more time.  Much like the fireworks ruin the fun for any hometown fireworks you enjoy after you return from Disney, the Osborne Lights will make you seriously pooh-pooh any light shows you see elsewhere.  Truly an amazing spectacle of dancing lights and I am so sorry they are leaving the Studios.  I sincerely hope that Disney finds another home for them in the future.

That quick stopover at the Studios wouldn’t be complete without checking out Star Tours and seeing the new scene added for the Star Wars Force Awakens movie coming out on December 18th.  Talk about exciting!  We rode three times and got to see three variations of the new scene…LOVED it!  We also were able to meet Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano on the Star Wars Clone Wars animated series, who is such an outstanding person.  Super kind, very friendly, and well worth the two hours we stood in line to meet her.  We can’t get enough Star Wars at the Benson household.

Where’s the next stop this holiday season?  Stay tuned!

Hilton Head beach from Disney's Beach House

Hilton Head beach from Disney’s Beach House

Hilton Head Welcome

Hilton Head Welcome

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Hilton Head sound side beauty

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Sign marking distance to all things Disney at Hilton Head

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20th anniversary and final showing of the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios

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Yacht Club lobby decorated for the holidays with railroad display

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Gingerbread carousel at Beach Club resort