Thanks to all who voted in the poll – Halloween won as of right now, but you can keep voting!
Walt Disney World
I’m going to confess something right now.
Many people in my life actually don’t like Disney.
I know, I know, it’s hard to believe – but it’s true! My siblings are not Disney people and many, many people I know just don’t “get” the whole “Disney thing”. Especially those who’ve known me for years now see me on facebook posting all these links every day to blog entries about DisneyDisneyDisney and wonder just how obsessed one person can be. So I thought I’d attempt to answer.
If you have read my previous entries, or know me personally, you know how much Disney World has always been a part of my life. However, it has not always been happy pixie dust all the time – there were visits where some pretty bad memories were made. Visits in later years without my dad there, where the memories of the past were so overpowering it was almost unbearable…in both good and bad ways. The first visit after my dad passed away in 2004, I pretty much cried the entire visit. Even in the Happiest Place on Earth, sadness can exist. That is not to say I’ve ever suffered at Disney World, I realize relatively speaking this is not the hardest of crosses to bear – I’m still at Disney World, right? My point is exactly that, I was at Disney World, through thick and thin.
I wish I could figure out exactly what it was about Disney World that embedded itself so completely in my psyche. I wish I could pinpoint that moment in time. I know it was the big family trip in 1983. EPCOT had just opened and at 9, it was just the most magical place ever. Sure, there was the Castle over in Magic Kingdom and all those fun rides over there, but this was NEW…and held so much new excitement. The attractions at EPCOT were truly interactive. You could see real live plants right in front of you on Listen to The Land. You could smell orange groves and choose your own ending in Horizons. You could envision the future of transportation – and then sit in a fancy Cadillac at the end of World of Motion. And then…and then there was Journey into Imagination.
I could perhaps write a dissertation on that attraction. I fell in love on my very first ride. I still remember walking in the doors and seeing the cool crystal elevator in the center of the room. Once seated on the moving cars, it was just…perfection. Sure, it was funny little animatronic figures singing at you, but the message was pure. It was not long before I had (and still do) have One Little Spark memorized from start to finish. The rest of the ride was just like a dream. It had crazy parts, parts where you smelled lovely roses before you passed into the beautiful white room, scary parts with thunder and lightening, parts about drama…but what about Science? The end was a cool time-lapse film room where you saw grass grow, flowers bloom and felt your imagination grow. It ended with what I think was the first “take-your-picture-on-a-ride” moment. Once we discovered where the flash was, my family always made silly faces and scenes in our photo and loved seeing other people’s candid shots.
Needless to say, I found my pixie dust at Journey into Imagination. On the last day of that vacation, I cried during the entire ride, because I didn’t want to leave it. My mom broke the rules and took flash photography the whole time because she wanted me to have the memories of the ride when we got back home to Boston. (Sorry Disney!) I just didn’t want to leave the magic I’d found there. Almost 30 years later, I still feel the same way. The ride has changed a few times and lost a bit of its original charm for me, but I still tear up at the end because the memories are still there. That is the power of Disney magic.
I recently read an article on AllEarsNet by Mike Scopa about the phenomenon of “Mouse Tears” or crying during different events or attractions at Disney. Obviously this is not a new thing, and we are not alone in our experience of it. I used to cry at the Festival of the Lion King at the end where all the kids dance around to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” before I even HAD kids. Music and beautiful images are so powerful, there really IS a magic there, magnified within the borders of Disney property. When I did have kids, those memories and tears just became that much stronger…and now we’re giving them memories to last their lifetime as well. Sometimes all my mom and I have to do is look at each other as we walk toward the Castle and we both start the water works while my husband starts the eye-rolling.
Disney World is more than just a ‘vacation spot’ and I don’t view it as a multi-billion dollar corporate entity out to rule the world. I see it as a place where dreams came true, and can still come true, with each visit. That belief has instilled a passion in me compared only to the love of my wonderful family. If your eyes and heart are open, you can see the magic too.
Sure, Disney can be a crazy, hectic, stressful experience for some. The crowds can be overbearing and oblivious. The heat can be unbearable at times. The prices can be a hardship. But one thing happens for me each time I walk onto Disney grounds…I take a deep breath, and I am home. The memories flood back; the sights, the smells, the tastes…and new memories are welcomed in. I always wanted other people to experience those same memories, to know that it didn’t have to be stressful, it could be full of wonder – but wasn’t sure how to go about doing that.
Then, I discovered Twitter. I started out just posting random updates, but soon found others just like me, that loved Disney too -and more importantly, they weren’t afraid to show it. I had already decided to turn my existing website into a blog, but felt such pressure to *find something funny/interesting to blog about!* that I’d been avoiding really updating. Then it hit me to “do what you love” and make it all about Disney. Once I made that decision, it was simple. My connections and friendships made on twitter gave me such great support. Soon my blogs were being promoted by other people, I was writing guest blogs for other sites – the magic had begun!
It really has been kismet that brought me to twitter and connected me with the people I’ve met there – Disney cast members, pod casters, fellow bloggers. There are so many other people out there with the same passion and enthusiasm for this magical place that we love. My passion led me to ZannaLand and all those Disney tips and stories and memories have a place to live and flourish now. But really, should I have expected any less? This is Disney after all, pixie dust comes with the territory!
I hope this has explained things a little more, given you a bit of understanding of why I am so passionate about this and how its not going to stop any time soon. 😉 I hope it has also served as a thank you for those that have supported me from day one, even with no understanding of what I was undertaking-just cheering me on no matter what.
Thank you all for reading – comments are ♥
My son decided when he was 3 that he wanted a mohawk. Three years later he still wanted one, so we let him have it. He got it trimmed a few times, but one time we decided to let him get it trimmed and turned red at Harmony Barber Shop on Main St. in Magic Kingdom. When he got a bit older he decided to grow it out and it's been long since about 2006. Today, a change was in order and his long hair came off. I thought in honor of that I'd share how far he's come. For a 10 year old, he's almost had as many hairstyles as me (tho I never got a mohawk). He's not too happy right now, but it's nice to see my 'little' boy's face again.
If you have been to the Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom, you have no doubt seen a curious queue of people as you cross the bridge to Adventureland. What could so many people be waiting in line for? Is it a Princess or Mickey waiting to take pictures and sign autographs? Are they giving away nights in Cinderella’s Royal Suite? (I wish!) No, they are all waiting for the delicious treat known to all Disney park fans as Dole Whip.
The Aloha Isle counter serves this heavenly pineapple soft-serve creation, which visitors with dairy issues enjoy because it is virtually dairy free. I am not ashamed to admit I have made a specific trip to the Magic Kingdom for a Dole Whip – and nothing else (one of the perks of living close to Disney World). Part of the draw for this mouthwatering creation is the fact that is available in only 3 locations in all of the world – Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and the state of Hawaii. [See comments below for where readers have found Dole Whip in their neighborhoods!]
Fans of Dole Whip have started countless pages on the internet devoted to recreating this unique recipe. This is not easy to do since the real Dole Whip does not contain milk so it’s never going to be ‘just right’. There are also places that sell the dry mix to make in commercial ice cream machines, but if I could make it at home any time, I think some of that specialness would wear off. Part of what makes it so magical is where you get to enjoy it.
Now – the controversial part! For the record, you don’t have to get pineapple Dole Whip at Aloha Isle – also available are orange (like an orange sherbet), vanilla, chocolate or swirl soft serve, or a root beer or coke float. A pineapple float with Dole pineapple juice and Dole Whip on top is another popular choice. But the real question is – How do you take your Dole Whip? PLAIN pineapple Dole Whip – or SWIRL with vanilla and pineapple Dole Whip together?? You’ll find people defend their choices quite strongly if you ask around.
Personally, I have always been and will always be a SWIRL girl. The tart and tangy pineapple mixes perfectly with the sweetness of the vanilla. Mmmmm. What’s funny is last time we had a Dole Whip with our friends from California, the husbands stood in a very long line in the intense heat to get our whole group of 6 Dole Whips. When my husband came over with mine, I took a few bites and thought “Hmm, something’s off here…” I asked if he was sure he got a swirl and he said yes, that’s what he asked for. I tried again but it just wasn’t right. I looked and noticed the other cups of Dole Whip had the signature yellow and white swirl going on. My sainted husband went back up and the gracious cast member, Bob from Chicago kindly made me a new one. Sweet perfection!! So yes, I feel a bit strongly too, I simply cannot be a plain pineapple person – I must have the swirl! That is not to say pineapple doesn’t taste good on it’s own, but that the vanilla just makes it so much better.
So what are you? A Pineapple Person or a Pineapple-Vanilla Swirl person? Share your vote – or better yet a picture of you or your family enjoying your favorite choice and I will update the entry with your photos and votes. If you have not yet had the pleasure of experience the wonders of Dole Whip, make sure you add it to your bucket list – you won’t regret it!
UPDATE: If Pineapple or orange sherbet-like flavors aren’t your thing, the Sunshine Tree Terrace has brought back Citrus Swirls, not to be confused with the orange available at Aloha Isle, the Citrus Swirl features tart frozen orange juice – much more of a slushy consistency, and vanilla soft serve ice cream. It’s available in a cup OR a cone, too! It took me a few tries to like it over the sweeter offerings at Aloha Isle, but it is now my preferred frozen snack in Adventureland. Sometimes the machines can be a bit cranky, but if you’re lucky you can enjoy this delicious treat and visit the Orange Bird while you’re at it!
As parents we’ve probably all taken our kids to an event primarily aimed at adults and then wondered “how do I keep them happy?”. If you are looking forward to Epcot’s 14th Annual International Food & Wine Festival for all its delicious gourmet fare and adults-only drinks, you may worry about how you’ll keep your little ones entertained. Luckily, you’re in Epcot! Even if you leave the rides and attractions Epcot is known for behind on your visit to the Food & Wine Festival, there will be no shortage of activities to keep the wine in your glass rather than a whine from your stroller.
Here are 5 to get you started:
5. KidCot Stations – There are KidCot stations in 11 World Showcase locations as well as in The Land and The Seas pavilions which feature a FREE mask that your kids can decorate. At each station, a cast member gives your child’s personal creation a stamp and attaches a paper cut-out, each themed to the KidCot location.
The wonderful thing about the World Showcase KidCot Stations is that whether it is their first visit or thier 20th, your kids will still love to create a new mask and add to it at each stop. This attraction is aimed at preschoolers, but I have to admit, my oldest son enjoyed it until he was almost 10, and my 9 year old daughter still loves to do it!
4. World Showcase Passport – Passport gift sets are available for purchase in many Epcot merchandise locations, as they have been for years now. I remember getting my passport stamped when I was about 11 and asking many cast members to write my name in their language as well. Now they come with stickers for each country, and a space for the cast member to write a message in their native tongue. This is a great activity for kids that may not want to decorate a mask, but still want an “International” souvenir to take home.
3. The Flavorhood, hosted by Edy’s Ice Cream – I’m not sure I need to say more about this new addition to the Food & Wine Festival – it’s ice cream! This fun spot will let the whole family test their “flavorology” and learn their ice cream personality. Ice cream can also be purchased here. A great spot to recoup before heading out for more international tastes! Did I mention the ice cream?!
2. Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure – This interactive adventure is one of the best additions to Epcot in recent years. Be sure to head to a pick-up location early to reserve your “Kimmunicator” because this is now a very popular attraction (you receive a Fast Pass type ticket to return and pick up your Kimmunicator in a certain time frame, this is so there aren’t 30 groups heading to the same mission at once).
Once you receive your first mission, follow the directions that appear and you’ll be in for all sorts of surprises and fun for the whole family. Each mission takes about 30 minutes to complete but can take up to an hour, so be sure you have allotted time for at least one. After one mission you can either turn your Kimmunicator in at a marked location, or continue on to defeat other baddies around the World Showcase. My personal favorite is the China mission, we visited areas of that pavilion we’d never seen before and the whole family loved the surprise finale of that mission.
1. Eat to the Beat Concert Series – True, your pre-walker, pre-schooler or tween probably won’t be familiar with the line up of great performers for this concert series, but don’t let that deter you. As you know, kids LOVE music. What better way to relax between tastings than jamming along to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or En Vouge, among others? This year 5 new acts are added to the series, which perform 3 times nightly and range from R&B to jazz to classic rock and more.
In addition to the above suggestions, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is a wonderful way to introduce your children to other cultures through food and hopefully even expand those growing taste-buds. Your child may surprise you by requesting a new gourmet favorite for dinner after trying it at the Food & Wine Festival. Remember to be adventurous yourself and try new things and use the above tips to entertain the kids between bites.
Applications are now closed – Final round phone interviews took place November 3,4, and 5th and the panel should be announced on November 10th. I am unsure of the official count on Round 3, but somewhere between 25-30 is what it has been in the past. On a personal note, I made it to the final round!! I am now anxiously awaiting the call telling me if I’m on the panel or not. Any other Round 3 applicants feel free to comment and check in! Thank you ALL for your support of my dream from day one!
You may also
Visit Walt Disney World Moms Panel for answers to any vacation planning questions!
My original entry from 9/1/09 follows, with updates at the end:
If you are a regular reader here at Zannaland, you are no doubt familiar with the fact that I hold just a *teeny* obsession with wanting to be on the Disney Moms Panel. Just a slight one. I am, however, not alone in that obsession. For those unaware, the Disney Moms Panel is an online question and answer forum at DisneyWorld.com where anyone with access to a computer can ask the Disney Moms Panel a question regarding a Disney World vacation, resort, restaurant, special event – pretty much any and everything under the sun – and get a factual answer or an unbiased opinion.
The panel is not employed by Disney, therefore if you ask them which restaurant they prefer, you aren’t going to get a pat answer, you are going to get a real, live, personal opinion. In addition, the panel offers tips and hints to make your time at Disney World as special as you hope it will be.
I have quite a bit of company in my quest to join this prestigious group, now entering its third year. There are countless others out there just like me, on message boards, twitter, facebook and blogs alike – all making a wish upon a star for this Disney Dream Job (that’s not a job at all, it’s a volunteer position). That is but one piece of evidence of the love, devotion and commitment so many fans have for Disney. It is, to borrow a Disney tag line – Where Magic Lives, after all.
On September 10 – 20, 2009 thousands of Disney Moms Panel hopefuls clicked onto the application page. Once 9am Eastern time hit, the Disney Moms Panel application page changed to a submission form with questions for the first round of the process. For those who make the second round cut, there are more essay questions to answer to show your ability to help out with Disney vacations, followed by a phone interview for the final round. The current Disney Moms (and Dad) have shared their thoughts on the oft-asked question, “Why were you chosen?” which might give you some help in crafting your answers, or at the very least increase your excitement about the process.
With a pool of over 20,000 people trying for 12 spots in last years round, one can only imagine how many more will try to compete this year, with the increased presence of the Disney Moms Panel members online. The 20,000 applications was the Disney-imposed cut-off point. One thing is certain: You do NOT need to be a mom, or even a dad to apply.
I’ve mentioned before and will say again, if I do not make the cut this round, I will keep trying for as long as I can type. It is something I know I want to achieve and be a part of and I will not give up that easily. And if I don’t make it, I still have the wonderful Mickey Moms Club to be a part of, which is a gift in itself. I want to thank my husband and children (and twitter and facebook followers and off-line friends as well) for bearing with me and my obsession this past year. I promise I’ll mellow out after September 10th. Maybe. Probably not. Ok, who am I kidding? I will always be Disney-obsessed! [Edit, nope – no mellowing out yet!! ;)]
To all those applying – BEST of luck, and I mean that…I’ve met so many wonderful people recently and just the thought of someone I ‘know’ being on the panel next year is exciting in itself. To the current, past and any ‘retiring’ moms & dads, thank you for all your hard work and pixie dust to all of us with questions and all those that follow your lives on twitter and on your blogs – it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and I am confident you will continue to share your amazing knowledge, tips, and ideas with all of us.
EDIT: [updated 9/29/09] Well, as of 10:25am September 10, 2010 I hit submit on my application. Now, the waiting begins! I immediately checked twitter and got worried that so many had already submitted their applications. I have been talking about it so much that it seemed like surely 20,000 applications could be submitted in an hour and a half, right? I hope we can find out the numbers later, I’d love to know. Submissions are still open as of right now tho (noon) so hopefully they’ll last at least a couple of days so everyone that wants to has a chance.
What we now know is that they are looking for 10 panelists this year. There are 3 questions which challenge your creativity and skill at fitting all you want to say in 100 words or less. I know personally I had about 4 answers pre-written; one about myself, one about my family, one about why I should get picked and one about my favorite tip. Well, Disney, keeping us on our toes combined a couple of those so I had to do some creative re-writes to get it all in. But I did it. I have to say I am happy with my answers, but looking around on twitter alone, I know I have some STIFF competition. There are some amazing people out there, all of whom probably want this just as much as I do. I know it will be hard if I don’t make the first, second or final cuts, but I’ve said all along that I will continue here doing what I love, sharing my Disney passion with everyone. I will definitely do that (and keep applying until I can’t type). 😉
As of Tuesday, September 15, applications are still being accepted. I have heard personally from so many great applicants this year, I cannot begin to imagine the difficult process of narrowing down the candidates! The great thing is that I’ve heard from moms, dads, non-moms and non-dads…really an excellent representation of the far-reaching demographic of disney fans and experts!
Many people have asked me questions about the process (which I admit I am no expert on, but I always try to find the official answers when I can!) so I thought I’d share some of those here:
1. Does applying for the Disney Moms Panel automatically give me membership to the Mickey Moms Panel?
Yes. All applicants become members when they apply – however, you will not receive notice of that membership until the first round ends. You will then be emailed to the address attached to your submission with details for logging in.
2. When does round 1 end? I’m going crazy with anticipation!! (see, I’m not alone! 😉 )
Going by last year’s dates – applications started on 9/8/08 and those that made it to round 2 were notified around 10/7/08. I received an email about Mickey Moms Club on 10/20/08. So it should be around the first week of October before we know who has moved on to round 2. [See top of entry for updates on latest dates and rounds-currently Round 2 has ended and we are awaiting results of who made it to Round 3.]
3. What about round 2 and the final announcement?
Round 2 announcements were made on October 13, 2009. Round 3 announcements should be made on October 27th or sometime during that week. Phone interviews are scheduled for the week of November 2 so we are assuming final winners will be announced the following week – November 9th. The training this year takes place December 4-8, 2009.
4. Does Disney pay for you to go to Disney World in December and get trained?
YES! Disney pays for your airfare to arrive in Orlando and once there everything is completely taken care of by Disney. Did we really expect any less magic?
5. I think I messed up my application/I didn’t receive an email confirmation – How do I know Disney got it??
When you hit that ‘submit’ button on your application page, you should have been brought to a confirmation page that said “Thank you for applying”. Shortly after that, you should have received an email to the address you registered with, explaining that your application was received and Disney was sorry that they could not contact those that did not make it to the next round. If have not received that email or are unsure if your submission worked, go back to the application page and if logging in brings you to a “you’ve already applied for this round” message, rest assured Disney got your application. Sometimes emails just get lost in cyberspace, but the website confirmation serves as your proof of submission.
6. How many/which panelists are staying on next year?
According to a current Disney Moms Panelist’s recent comment on a message board, the current panelists are also waiting to find out who stays on for next year. We know they are looking for 10 new moms, but at this point it has not been announced which current panelists will be staying on.
I’ll update this post again later when I hear (either personally or through other peoples’ updates) that the first round is over. Thank you all for visiting – feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with the process if you’ve applied this or any other round! If you have any questions, ask away! I’ll do my best to get an official answer. Thank you to all the official Disney Moms Panel moms & dads for their help answering questions!
I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be able to attend the first-ever Mickey Moms Club Party, put together by the wonderful Disney Moms Panel and the PR Team from Disney World. With the upcoming 2010 Disney Moms Panel search, it was a lovely surprise to see this invitation in my email a few weeks ago. The Mickey Moms Club comprises applicants of past Disney Moms Panel searches that did not make the cut but were still given a special place online to gather, share tips, get the latest news and use some great tools and downloads of park maps, recipes and more! Every registered member of the MMC was invited to gather on Sunday, August 23, 2009 for a special viewing of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot, enjoy some refreshments and meet other MMC members! Best of all, we were allowed up to 5 guests, so it wasn’t something where we had to leave our families at home while we had all the fun.
I will admit, as excited as I am and as hopeful as I remain to some day make the cut for the Disney Moms Panel, I clicked “RSVP yes” before I even fully read the invite, I just KNEW I had to be there! As luck would have it, it coincided when we were already going to be in Orlando, celebrating my mom and daughter’s birthdays. Even if we hadn’t, driving up from Tampa would not have been too difficult. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve gotten to know many Disney Moms Panel members via Twitter, as well as two of the very special PR people, Laura Spencer (@LauraSpencerOne) and Leanne J (@LeanneJ), so I was very excited to potentially meet some of my ‘idols’ and hopefully get to know even more MMC members. I knew not all the Disney Mom’s Panelists would be there, but it was exciting nonetheless.
We checked in and were told due to weather issues (it had been raining on and off all week) the refreshments had been moved indoors. Yay! We were told to head to the World ShowPlace building, and as the cast member tried to describe it, I said, “The old Millennium Village building, right?” She said, “Yes! You’re the first person that knew what that was!” I remember viewing the Millennium Village ages ago, I guess it was about 9 years! We filled out our name tags – I wrote “ZANNA” in big letters on mine hoping to connect with anyone I knew from Twitter, and headed over to wait for the doors to open.
Once we entered the World Showplace building, I was in awe. It was beautifully lit and there seemed to be endless tables of goodies! Tables with pretzels and popcorn, tables with huge cookies & rice crispie treats, tables with sodas, juices, water bottles and plain and chocolate milk, AND! freezers with Mickey Premium bars, Mickey cookie ice cream sandwiches and other frozen goodies. Amazing!!! In addition, there were pub tables set up with candles glowing inside beautiful colored glass holders for us to enjoy our goodies and mingle. It went on forever too!
I was there for about 5 minutes when a mom came up and remarked on my diaper bag. We had a long conversation about the pros and cons of designer diaper bags and I think I converted her to my bag’s brand 😉 (Ju-Ju Be in Purple Paisley for the record :P) My husband told me I should’ve gotten her name and given her one of my cards, but in my excitement I forgot. Anyway, nice talking to you!
I kept looking at people’s name tags hoping to find someone I knew…I saw Disney Mom Cathy (@DisneyMomCathy) and Disney Mom Anna(@BeautyGirlsMom), Disney Mom Jackie (DisneyMomJackie) and Disney Mom Joanne (@JoJoey – who I did not follow on twitter but I do now!). Also there was Disney’s Leanne J. and another Disney PR person, Annette (not sure if she has a twitter account!). I tweeted about my location within the party, because I knew of at least 3 friends from twitter that were there but I hadn’t seen yet. Suddenly, someone came up to me and said, “You’re…ZANNA!” I said, “Yes, I am!!” 😀 That person was Kristen (@KristenWDW) on twitter and her lovely family from Massachusetts. Obviously we had tons to talk about since we had the Massachusetts connection. I looked down after two minutes and my daughter and her oldest daughter were playing on the floor together already. They became instant friends. Her younger little girl was adorable as well and her husband was great too. We had fun talking until it was time to head over to Illuminations.
The location for viewing was right between the two World Showcase Plaza shops. I must say, viewing Illuminations from there is almost like a completely different show! The fireworks seem to go up even higher into the sky and it was simply beautiful. After the show, Kristen suggested we walk around and look for Laura since she had tweeted she was watching Illuminations too (see how valuable twitter is? 😉 ) so we did and sure enough we found her at the exit of our little viewing area. I introduced myself and we talked about twitter and I thanked her for the wonderful evening. Leanne was there too so we let her know how much fun we all had and how grateful we were for the experience. Laura said that she and Leanne had been talking and realized how fun it would be to get everyone together like this, and that the name tags were such a great idea so we’d all know who we were meeting. She also said it would be the first of hopefully many future get-togethers like that. We hope to be a part of any future parties for sure! We also got some fun MMC and Disney Moms Panel swag on the way out – unexpected fun, just like Disney is famous for!
All in all it was a magical evening and I am so grateful the stars aligned to let our family be a part of it. Everyone wishing my daughter a happy birthday was just the icing on the delicious cake that night! My fingers and toes are crossed and I am showering daily in pixie dust, in hopes that next year at this time, I’ll be one of the Disney Moms Panel moms in a pink polo, but if not, I’m happy just to be a part of the magic.
Those of you following me on Twitter are aware that tomorrow we leave for 5 days in Disney World. It’s been a while since we stayed that long there, and I am SO looking forward to this getaway. We were there briefly in June visiting with friends from California but before that it was back in December, when the baby was only 10 weeks old and quite the handful. I’m pretty sure back then we had not yet upgraded our Seasonal Passes to Annual ones, so we were blacked out anyway, but just went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Anyway, this will be crowded and hot, but fun.
I’ve mentioned before how my mother is our Cruise Director for trip planning. She sets up all the Advanced Dining Reservations and all that good stuff. I’m excited because we are straying from our usual Japan Teppan Edo and Boma for dinner.
- We arrive on Wednesday and will be heading to lunch at the T-Rex Experience in Downtown Disney. A friend of mine has raved about the Cotton-Tini (Martini poured into a glass full of cotton candy!) so I’m hoping I can try that. We’ve been there about 3 times already, but I do enjoy it. I think the food is actually better than RainForest Cafe, despite the same ownership. Overpriced and loud? Sure. Welcome to Orlando! 😉 Dinner that night is being played by ear, which is always fun to do too.
- Thursday we’ll be heading to ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort for breakfast. They have a delicious all-you-can-eat breakfast, sort of like a buffet you don’t have to get up for. They bring it to you in a skillet. The kids always love dancing around the restaurant there too – we’ll see if they are officially ‘too cool’ for that now. That night we’ll be trying out the all-new Sanaa restaurant over in the recently opened Kidani Village section of the Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas. I’ve heard nothing but good reviews for it, so I can’t wait.
- Friday we’ll be heading to Maya Grill for breakfast. That place is sort of our little secret (well not anymore)…it offers a delicious breakfast buffet but is usually never crowded (there are no characters, which is probably why). The scenery is always beautiful over at Coronado Springs Resort as well. For dinner we’ll be heading to the Garden Grill in Epcot, which we have fond memories of. If you saw the last entry on birthdays, you can see our daughter enjoying some time with Dale there. A friend of the family is a server there as well so we like to say hello if we catch him working.
- Saturday will bring us to The Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom for breakfast, another wonderful buffet, and Pooh characters. I can’t wait for the baby to meet them. We’ll be trying out the new Paradiso 37 for lunch that day – from what I’ve seen it looks fabulous. That night we’ll be headed a few towns north to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday with all her friends. Should be a blast.
- Sunday we’ll be checking out, but not before Cape May Cafe at Disney’s Beach Club Resort for breakfast and Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom for lunch. Can you believe in all our years and hundreds of visits we have never eaten at the Liberty Tree Tavern?? I guess being from New England it just seemed like Sunday dinner so we never needed to check it out, but we are going to finally get to see for ourselves.
We had planned to head home after lunch on Sunday, but Disney has thrown us for a loop by inviting all the Mickey’s Mom’s Club members to an Illuminations party that night. If you had applied to the Disney Mom’s Panel in the past, you were given an invite to join the MMC website and invitations were extended to those members. I’m very excited to meet my fellow MMC members, as well as some of the Disney Mom’s Panel which I’ve been getting to know on Twitter for the past several months. Can’t wait!
I will try to update while we are gone with at least some picture posts, and there will definitely be a full trip report upon my return. You can also keep track of my updates and cell phone pics by following me on Twitter (click on the bird to your right). Wishing you all some end-of-summer Pixie Dust while I’m gone!
One of our family’s traditions since living in the backyard of Walt Disney World is celebrating birthdays in the parks. We also have a tradition of spending Mother’s Day at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, and of course enjoying the holiday decorations in December. However there is little that can compete with the magic of being at Disney for your birthday. Our upcoming trip will combine celebrations for my mother – turning 70 this week (and I don’t worry about sharing her age because she doesn’t look a day over 55!) and my daughter will be turning 9 on the last day of our vacation.
There are several things you can do to make your birthday more special at Disney, including ordering gift baskets, flowers or balloons to your Disney resort, or special ordering a small cake ($21) to be delivered (with song of course!) as you dine in a Disney restaurant. In addition, there is one very important, completely FREE thing which you should do first and foremost upon arriving on Disney property: Tell EVERYONE it’s your birthday!! Tell the front desk when you check in at your resort, tell them at the ticket sales booth, guest relations or City Hall at the parks, and tell them at every Disney restaurant at which you dine.
When you tell them at the ticket booth or guest relations of a park, you will be given a free button proclaiming to the world that it is your birthday. A cast member will write your name on the button and once you put it on, the magic begins. Cast members will pass you by and say, “Happy Birthday!” Perfect strangers walking past or waiting in line with you will say, “Happy Birthday!”. Your server at a Disney table-service restaurant will even bring you a special Disney cupcake with a candle and sing to you!
We told the front desk at Disney’s Beach Club Resort it was our daughter’s birthday and she was greeted with a nice surprise one day as we were relaxing in the room. This is not guaranteed, but worth a try, tell everyone!!
If you are getting a special Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique make-over on your birthday, you will receive a special “Birthday Princess” sash. I’m not sure what is available at the new Pirate League in Magic Kingdom, but I’m sure they do something special as well. Part of the fun is finding out the little surprises and treats Disney has in store for birthday boys and girls (no age limit to that title! 😉 )
Of course this year is the Free Admission on Your Birthday promotion at the Disney Parks, which is a wonderful way to celebrate! And if you have annual passes or admission tickets already, there are other options that ensure you receive some Disney magic on your special day. Whether or not you make visiting Disney on your birthday an annual tradition, don’t be shy and enjoy celebrating YOU in the Happiest Place on Earth!
I mentioned in my Disney Resorts entry how our first foray into “on property” resorts was Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Vacation Villas. I found a few pictures that I scanned in and thought I’d share here.
As I described before, there were 4 different types of Lake Buena Vista Villas: Club Lake Villas were, if I recall correctly, more luxurious than the Vacation Villas. The Fairway Villas were smaller and on the golf course. The Vacation Villas were the attached townhouse style and the Tree House Villas were the really cool two-story tree house style homes nestled in the forest. The only remnants of this era of Disney resorts are the Tree House Villas, now refurbished after being used for years as homes for College Program International Cast Members. You can view the Tree House Villas from the boat that sails from Port Orleans and Old Key West Resorts to Downtown Disney. I always loved riding the Disney resort buses from the parks to the Vacation Villas, because we had to go through the Tree House Villas first and you never knew what you’d see on those dark roads; raccoons, bunnies, deer…it was great fun.
The layout for the Vacation Villas we stayed in was a typical condo layout downstairs: small kitchen with pass-thru and bar stools at the counter, dining area, bathroom, and family room with a sleeper sofa, tv, etc. The fun was upstairs, where the master bedroom was actually an open loft design. You have no idea how cool this was to an 8 year-old. The master bedroom had a king bed and a tv, then a bathroom too as I remember, but the wall that the tv was on was completely open to the family room downstairs. It was so exciting to me. There was another bedroom upstairs with two twin beds and a bathroom. The family room downstairs had sliding glass doors leading to a patio with chairs. There were several options for views, but we always requested and received an Empress Lily view.
Another great part of staying at the Lake Buena Vista Villas was you were able to rent a golf cart for the length of your stay. You could then get anywhere you needed to go in that area with the golf cart. We drove to breakfast at the Buena Vista Club restaurant. (This was the Club attached to the golf course). We explored the other villas…if my dad had been a golfer obviously he could’ve used it for that too! The best part was driving to the Lake Buena Vista Village Marketplace. You may know it now as Downtown Disney.
We could drive our golf cart over the bridge in the area that now houses the bus stops for Downtown Disney. From there we could park over where Downtown Disney Guest Relations now is, plug in the golf cart and explore the shops and restaurants. I think there were only a few at the time Cap’n Jack’s was one, and Chef Mickeys, which stood where Rain Forest Cafe now exists. It was a quaint, little place then. Dark wood decor, windows overlooking the lake and the Empress Lily. It had a separate lounge where you could wait and have a drink while you waited for your table. Back then, if you ordered one of a few specific drinks, you could get a souvenir plastic mug to keep. I remember getting a drink similar to a Shirley Temple, with rock candy swizzle sticks. A lot. I have quite a few of those red mugs with Chef Mickey’s image on them. I had to stop using them because the dishwasher was wearing off the design.
I think the only other restaurant was Heidelberg’s deli where Earl of Sandwich is now. Mickey’s Pantry was there, a jewelry store called 24-K and a few other shops. Can you imagine a Marketplace without World of Disney, Once Upon a Toy, the Lego Store or even Pleasure Island?? That’s how it once was. The Marketplace truly was a rainy day excursion and not an attraction unto itself like it is now.
Sadly, Disney decided to discontinue operations of the Villas. They used some of the buildings during the Disney Institute years, but then demolished all of the original villas (apart from the Tree House Villas) and built the Saratoga Springs Resort as part of the Disney Vacation Club program. Saratoga Springs now offers some of those same gorgeous views of the Empress Lily that we once enjoyed, even though it’s now called Fulton’s Crab House.
Another thing I found in my search for old pictures was this coupon for the arcade at the Lake Buena Vista Villa Center. Think they’ll still honor it? 😉
I welcome any information, links or pictures from this time period at Walt Disney World!!