Places to Stay
When rumors first swirled a few months back regarding the Walt Disney World Resort’s Fantasyland expansion with blueprints featuring an entire separate area devoted to princesses, critics lambasted the unconfirmed choices for aiming to exclude little boys and focus solely on Princesses-in-training. On September 12, 2009 at Disney’s inaugural D23 Expo in Anaheim, those rumors were proved completely-TRUE. Disney countered the worry about leaving boys in the dust with promises of opportunities for boys to be knights-in-training. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo assured the crowds in attendance that Fantasyland would be for families not just girls. What I find interesting is that a company which has received constant criticism concerning its gender stereotypes and teaching little girls to aspire to be princesses, is now still under fire when promoting a place where all can imagine and explore.
Fantasyland has been around in its current form for decades. Have generations of boys refused to go to Cinderella Castle because a GIRL lives there? Do girls not want to ride Peter Pan’s Flight because a BOY is the main character? As with most arguments against a popular phenomenon, I think there is too much scrutiny going on. Little girls loved Toy Story even before Jessie showed up. Little boys in turn still love Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid…all the masterpieces Disney has produced. A story is a story and a child is not bound by adult definitions of what he or she is “supposed” to identify with.
Despite those facts, Disney has still made an effort to entertain both genders with this new Fantasyland expansion. There will be a knight-in-training section in the Cinderella area and there will be a new restaurant featuring everyone’s favorite neanderthal, Gaston (who still uses antlers in all of his decorating). However, who is to say that only boys will want to be knights in training or girls will want to do the planning for Aurora’s 16th birthday celebration? I think we need to leave aside our worry about boys being entertained or girls being catered to and just relax and enjoy what Disney does best, weave a tale of magic. By doing so, our children and our children’s children may all experience the wonder that is ever-present at Disney’s parks, without over-analyzation and debate about what they are allowed to appreciate.
As far as the specifics on Fantasyland expansion, there are many sites out there with more detailed information and pictures, but I will share some highlights. Fantasyland will be expanded not replaced, however Toon Town will pretty much be lost in the new plans. Goofy’s Barnstormer will remain and according to Imagineers, Mickey’s presence will still be felt, but they are keeping mum as to where and how that will play out. An all-new Dumbo attraction will be built, with not one but two actual Dumbo rides as well as an interactive game queue so there will be no more shuffling in the sun while you wait.
Fairy Tales will receive the royal treatment, with several new areas full of activities and chances for interaction with everyone’s favorite princesses. As mentioned above, you will be able to help the 3 fairies from Sleeping Beauty plan a 16th birthday party for Aurora, since she missed out. Cinderella’s appearance will transform from rags to her ball gown before your eyes. There will be special locations to explore from Beauty and the Beast including Gaston’s Tavern and a more elegant Be Our Guest restaurant themed after the ballroom scene in the movie. Ariel will not be forgotten and in fact she’ll get her own ride where guests can go under the sea and experience some favorite scenes and music from the movie.
Perhaps what I am most excited about will be the addition of Pixie Hollow, which has enjoyed great success in Disneyland. Disney World’s Pixie Hollow will be one of the last new sections of Fantasyland to be built and guests will be magically shrunk to pixie-size and be able to explore the Hollow from a fairy’s perspective. Tinker Bell is my favorite and I love all things pixie-dusted so I can’t wait to see and be a pixie!
If Fantasyland does not make all your dreams come true, there is also the announcement of the all-new Star Tours 2 – Pod Racers – in 3-D. This new take on the outer space adventure will be landing in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2011 as well as Disneyland. As you can imagine the motion ride simulator possibilities of a pod race scene from Star Wars Episode 1 are endless. Add 3-D technology to that and I’m sure the experience will be unforgettable.
One thing is certain, 2010 and beyond will usher in an amazing new era at Disney’s Parks. While the memories we experienced as children may not be repeated, new memories await visitors old and new to the place where Dreams Do Come True…no matter who you are.
This morning I woke up to a nice rainy day here in ZannaLand, and I thought I’d share my favorite things to do in Disney World when you experience some of Florida’s infamous “liquid sunshine”.
Of course, the first thing to remember is that you will not melt. Unless there are some hurricane-force winds going on or crazy lightning, Disney will remain open for your use. Certain rides with all or portions of the ride outside may temporarily shut down (especially if lightning is present) but the rest of the World will be there for those daring enough to get soaked and keep on walking.
One way to help those of stout-heart and spare shoes is the now-famous Disney rain poncho. While working at the Magic Kingdom’s merchandise shops I can assure you, when the rain starts, these ponchos are worth their weight in gold. Wait, they don’t really weigh that much, that’s a bad example. Um…they’re really really valuable!! The ponchos Disney originally sold were bright yellow with Mickey Mouse on the back. Of course wearing them made you look ridiculously silly, therefore some fun souvenir photos were to be had!
In 2003, Disney made the switch to clear ponchos, so you weren’t *quite* as funny-looking (and you could spot your family members easier!). I have noticed that the most recent ponchos we purchased [it is the law that if you buy ponchos, you must forget them on every subsequent visit so you need to buy more when it rains again] are much thinner than they used to be, and the hood is sort of useless in keeping the rain off your face. If you have a baseball cap, wear that under the hood. You can also of course buy other ponchos at discount stores ahead of time but again, the key is remembering to carry them with you.
If, however, you arrive to the Walt Disney World Resort and see on the local weather that there is a 99% chance of rain all day every day of your visit, there are some activities to make you forget all about the rain rain rain coming down down down. Here are my top 3:
3. Innoventions This area of Epcot’s Future World is chock-full of activities to keep the whole family entertained. These buildings are located to the east and west of Future World, as you walk in the main entrance beyond Spaceship Earth. They have undergone many facelifts since their Communicore days with SMRT-1 (a robot that answered your questions with the latest in 1980s voice recognition technology) and the EPCOT Poll (a census-like poll where guests answered questions and learned group results at the end). Innoventions East features environmental activities including The House of Innoventions and the Test the Limits Lab. Innoventions West offers more interactive exhibits such as the favorite The Great Piggy Bank Adventure. Also included as part of Innoventions West is Club Cool (formerly Ice Station Cool) where guests can enjoy free samples of popular soft drinks from around the world, sponsored by Coca-Cola. Be sure to try the Beverly from Italy – it’s delicious! 😉
2. Resort Hopping on the Monorail This is a favorite activity of our family any time, but it’s especially convenient during a storm, because you never have to get wet once you hop on the Resort Monorail from the Magic Kingdom or the Transportation and Ticket Center. There are some truly unique shops and restaurants you can explore and enjoy whether you’re a hotel guest or not. In addition to being a fun rainy day activity, our family makes sure to tour the resorts each holiday season. I will discuss more on that in upcoming entries, but it is truly a magical experience the way Disney decorates for the holidays.
- The loop from Magic Kingdom takes you first to the Contemporary Resort which always has some fun shopping to experience as well as the popular must-reserve dining spot Chef Mickeys, as well as the delightful culinary addition of The Wave on the first floor. Another treat on the ground floor (no pun intended) is the coffee and espresso bar Contemporary Grounds, which serves delicious lattes. Our family also loves the arcade at the Contemporary and has spent many hours there accumulating tickets to turn in for prizes.
- Next stop on the monorail is the Polynesian Resort. The decor alone is reason enough to spend some time here – the lush gardens and waterfalls will relax even the most frazzled park visitor. Here you’ll find shopping with a tropical flair and items not found in other locations. Delicious meals, desserts and coffee await at the Kona Cafe (one of my favorite restaurants on property). Here’s a secret – you can also get Dole Whip at Captain Cook’s Snack Co. inside the Polynesian! You don’t even have to be inside Magic Kingdom to enjoy this popular treat. Breakfast lunch and dinner are also served at Captain Cook’s, if you’d like more than dessert.
- The final stop on the monorail resort loop is the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s flagship resort. While here you can enjoy the elegant atmosphere, shops and restaurants, listen to music or just explore the lobby. There is a Basin White location within the Grand Floridian which offers unique items not found in the Downtown Disney location, so it’s worth a visit if you love their soaps and bath bombs as much as I do.
1. Downtown Disney From World of Disney to the Lego Imagination Store to Once Upon a Toy to Days of Christmas, there is no end to the rainy-day shopping available in Downtown Disney. You will also not be short on dining options – Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, Wolfgang Puck, Earl of Sandwich, Raglan Road…I could go on and on! Downtown Disney Marketplace also offers unique shops like Basin with soaps, lotions and more or the new TrenD shop offering boutique-style Disney clothing and accessories. Don’t forget Downtown Disney Westside and its new Princess Diana royal gown and artifact exhibit, Disney Quest for interactive gaming in addition to more restaurants and shops worthy of discovery. One word of caution, even on sunny days, parking and crowds at Downtown Disney are on the high side. It’s no secret that this is a great location for a rainy day change of pace, so plan accordingly.
However you choose to spend your rainy day at Disney, remember Mickey can’t control the weather (as much as I’ve been wishing for a clear dome with air conditioning placed over Disney World on the hottest of summer days there!). As frustrating as it might be to have your vacation interrupted by ride-stopping, shoe-soaking rain…you are still in the Happiest Place on Earth and it’s truly how you react and make the most of all Disney has to offer that sets the tone for the success or failure of your trip. Some of my happiest memories are of wearing cloth napkins on my soaking shoulders inside Germany’s Biergarten, laughing at how we’d just run through the rain and puddles to get there. A change of plans doesn’t have to mean a short-change in the memories.
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!
Anyone remember the World Showcase Dancers? They were a favorite for my family, since my mom was a professional ballerina. I was very shy, but my mom pushed me up to dance with that guy when they came around looking for volunteers. All I remember is how sweaty he was. And those blue socks I’m wearing. And that I wish I could still get away with wearing matching short/tank top sets.
I have a couple of other pictures I’m saving for an upcoming blog entry on the World Showcase Dancers. Great memories.
Antelope, Giraffes and Zebra, that’s who! And that is just a few of the many animals you can see right from the windows of Sanaa (pronounced Sah-NAH) the newest restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Sanaa is located in the Kidani Village section of Animal Kingdom Lodge, a new area built for Disney’s Vacation Club members. Kidani Village contains studio, 1 or 2 bedroom villa suites. This area has its own lobby and check-in area, its own pool and recreation area and its own savanna, viewable from many of the villas as well as Sanaa itself.
While the lobby area is not as breathtaking as Jambo House (the original Animal Kingdom Lodge section) it is still quite beautiful. It is more cozy. However, you will still be in awe as you walk down the spiral staircase to Sanaa and get your first glimpse of the savanna. The staircase itself is beautiful, and the thatched roof above this area is amazing. After you check in for your reservations at Sanaa, feel free to explore the hallway directly behind you. It is beautiful on its own and you can see the animals from all the windows. There is a viewing area outside, where you can walk out and see the animals closer without glass to get in the way. There are cast members out there to ask questions and a firepit for late night story-telling.
As we were brought to our table, we were told that Sanaa was meant to represent a marketplace – the decor is to look like the trees of a village and a colorful marketplace within it. We were lucky enough to be seated right at a window. Our server welcomed us and carefully explained how the menu at Sanaa worked, with its special entrees and drinks. We instantly felt special and taken care of with the patience and attention we received. I would add that this was because we were celebrating a birthday there, but I was actually quick to notice that all the tables around us, with the same and different servers, received this same incredible and attention. Our server brought over a covered cup with a glowing ice cube in it for the baby, to keep him entertained. The server next to us knelt down to explain to the 4 year-old at the next table which animals were out there and what they liked to eat. Our server later explained to my son the process of making naan bread, and how his pizza was made from that bread. “That must be why it was so good!” he replied to her. That is just part of what made Sanaa stand out as a truly “Disney” experience.
We ordered the Indian Bread Sampler, where you pick 3 types of breads and 3 accompaniments. The bread choices are Naan, Roti, Paratha, Paneer Paratha. We chose all but the Roti. The accompaniments to choose from are: Mint and Onion Raita, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Garlic-Ginger Pickle, Mango-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, Tamarind Chutney. Your server can explain better than I the differences between all of these choices, but we went with the Cucumber Raita, Hummus, and Garlic-Ginger Pickle. We loved them all. I highly recommend this sampler, because there will be something for everyone and at the very least, you can share plain naan with your picky eaters.
We also ordered the Mustard Seed Crusted Scallops with a coconut cream sauce. I am a sucker for all things coconut, but even if you are not a fan, it’s not an overpowering coconut flavor. These scallops were perhaps the best I’ve ever eaten. They were perfection on a plate. I would go back and order 2 orders for an entree, they were that good! I definitely want to try the Samosas next time though, because I’m sure they are delicious too.
For an entree, I ordered the Tandoori Chicken. I have had Tandoor chicken many times before, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong with it. To my surprise, it came already off the bone and in fork-sized pieces. Perfect! It came with your choice of Basmati rice or 5-grain Pilaf. “From the Tandoor Ovens” also has a shrimp or lamb chop option rather than the chicken.
Other menu options include slow-cooked meats, or a vegetarian option as well, including chicken or shrimp curry, paneer cheese and spinach, or beef short ribs. Also available are African Cooking with Indian Flavors, which feature Cornish Game Hen, Strip Steak, Dum Biryani and a Sustainable Fish, which changes nightly.
Our meals were just fantastic, and though were worried about my picky 10 year-old, as you read, he loved his naan pizza. My daughter enjoyed her Meaty Macaroni made with ground turkey as well. The problem with dinner was that we were so full from the delicious appetizers and entrees that we had no room for dessert, which, if you know me and my family at all, is shocking.
As we dined, various animals strolled past, stopping to eat some strategically placed hay, or hanging out by the trees further back. We loved watching the Antelope *right* outside our window. Soon many friends joined and later the far-off Giraffes came by to say hello. In the distance we could see Wildebeests, Zebras, and the long-horned Ankole Cattle. We saw Ostriches off to the side and Red Crown Cranes came up closer than any other creature, since they could fly around the little unobtrusive barriers set up so you don’t end up having Wildebeest for dessert. Even the server remarked that there was an unusually large turn-out of animals that night.
While we were enjoying the view, we started to hear drums from the front of the restaurant. I thought they must just do a musical presentation, but as we continued to watch, the drummers paraded through the restaurant and over to a table where they sang a Sanaa version of Happy Birthday. I thought that was really impressive, but then they came over to our table for my mom’s birthday. They sang the song again and it was SO moving! Way different than a plain ol’ Happy Birthday by weary servers that you usually see in restaurants. Everyone was clapping along to the beat and looked genuinely excited for your celebration. After the song, a hostess handed my mom the Disney birthday card that you usually get, signed by various characters. However – this card was signed by every member of the front of the house staff, with wishes in their native language. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. As a result, I *highly* recommend Sanaa for a birthday celebration. I know that’s where I’m headed for MY birthday this year.
All in all, our experience with Sanna was a marvelous one. I have been singing its praises ever since to anyone that’ll stand still. I loved it there, and so did the whole family. It is not just a place to eat…it is an experience – one which you’ll likely treasure for years to come. If you are planning a trip to Disney World, include Sanaa in those plans. If you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Oh! I almost forgot – on our way out we stopped at the restroom. I’m not sure I’ve ever said this about a restroom or not, but it was GORGEOUS. Beautiful dark wood and stone…just beautiful. Make sure you make a stop there before you go! 😉
All photos are ©Zanna DiMarzio under Creative Commons license – more photos available at Flickr.