Thanks to all who voted in the poll – Halloween won as of right now, but you can keep voting!
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.
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!
In August of 1993, my mom and I had planned a little vacation to Walt Disney World. We were living in Massachusetts at the time and I had probably just come to the conclusion that I wanted to work at Disney World. This wasn’t our ‘recon’ mission when we went looking for houses, rather more of a getaway from the grind of school and work, of which we were both a part. What we didn’t plan for was a royal companion during our visit to Disney World – Princess Diana had also decided to take her boys on vacation there during the same time.
We heard the news reports once we got there, and the rumors from cast members about her reserving an entire floor of the Grand Floridian and the special security needed to escort her throughout the parks. We also managed to serendipitously follow her around almost her entire visit.
We first saw her in the Magic Kingdom, in Mickey’s Starland as Mickey’s Toon Town Fair was called back then. At that time the “Judges Tent” then held a live-show with Mickey and friends. We were all ushered into the hall and completely shocked when we realized the Princess of Wales was sitting two rows in front of us! Prince William and Prince Henry were with her and each had a friend or two as well. She was so elegant and gracious, smiling and laughing at all the appropriate times. I can’t remember one single thing about the show that was on the stage, but I remember her smile in front of me as if it were yesterday.
After that we thought that was the end of our amazing luck with Princess-viewing. Nope, the next day we both happened to be at the then Disney-MGM Studios at the same time. We had just finished up the Backstage Tour and were walking over to the Inside the Magic Special Effects Tour and saw her group being escorted back behind the main buildings at the end of foot of New York Street (where Lights, Motors, Action! now stands). I tried to take a picture then, but it didn’t show the Princess.
Later we stopped for lunch at the Backlot Express over by Star Tours – a favorite counter service spot for us. Wouldn’t you know, Princess Diana stopped in to use the restroom here! You would’ve thought she was royalty the way everything stopped…oh, wait. Yes, it was quite amazing seeing both the special treatment given to such an elegant Princess, and how down to earth and relaxed Princess Diana seemed. She was just in Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt, nothing ridiculously over-the-top. She was clearly enjoying her time with her sons and making sure they didn’t miss out on anything.
I had always held a fondness for the Princess of Wales, having watched her wedding on T.V. and her appearances in the media throughout the years. After this trip though, I had a new respect for her as a mom too. I wasn’t anywhere near being a mom yet in 1993. However, I knew from living with my own mother just how important those special times can be, especially in one of the most magical places on earth. It was truly an honor to witness a real Princess amid the fairy tale ones all around us.
We were living in Orlando, Florida when we first heard news that late night of her car crash. We stayed up the entire night watching the news reports and my mom and I definitely shed some tears. Such a beautiful life, cut so short, so senselessly. Watching her funeral services was heartbreaking.
On this anniversary of her passing, I thought I’d share some of the magic she unwittingly shared with a mother and daughter, as we all enjoyed a little bit of pixie dust. May you rest in peace, Princess…and thank you for all the good you did here on earth.
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!
As a child, my family discovered the wonder of Disney Resort properties after our 2nd or 3rd visit. I was still young enough at the time to be in complete awe when we arrived from the Orlando airport at the Lake Buena Vista check-in building (now the Amateur Athletics Association building near Downtown Disney) and were given the royal treatment. It’s no surprise, given Disney’s reputation, that 20 years later I still remember the kindness and attention we received from the cast member who’s name I’ve long since forgotten. That’s the Disney experience for you.
We stayed on two different occasions in the 1980’s at Disney’s Vacation Villas. These were townhouse-style villas over by the “new” Disney Marketplace. There were 3 different types of villas – The Club Lake Villas, the Fairway Villas, Vacation Villas and the Treehouse Villas. In the 1990’s, these resorts were turned into accommodations for the Disney Institute. When that didn’t quite take off as planned, Disney decided to completely tear down and rebuild the villas (except for the Treehouse Villas!) and created the Saratoga Springs Resort, part of the Disney Vacation Club ownership program.
Our experiences there were so wonderful that after that, we were hooked and became Disney Resort regulars. It’s kind of hard to go back to a motel off property once you’ve been spoiled by Disney. We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter quite a bit, then moved on to Wilderness Lodge and Beach Club. When we stayed at Beach Club, we knew we’d found our home. We would also enjoy the wondrous Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk, the All-Star and Pop Century properties and Port Orleans Riverside. But like I said, we found our home at Beach Club. If you try out a few Disney resorts, you will find your home too, trust me. There will be one setting that just stands out and each time you walk in the front doors, you take a deep breath, relax, and think – we’re home. This is the type of guest experience that other hotels only dream of achieving.
So where should you start? The choices seem endless don’t they? Monorail access? Boat access? Close to which park? What about budget? Which is best for families with kids or those without? As explained in Disney Planning 101, there are countless places to find out in-depth information about Disney resort options. All Ears Net is my favorite – they have pictures and maps of every resort so you can even request which building you’d like to try to be in. You should start with that Disney Vacation Planning dvd you ordered (right?) and then check back with DisneyWorld.com to look at the different amenities and options that will best suit your family’s needs. You can even ask a specific question to the Disney Moms Panel (or call 407-W-Disney and as a Disney Reservation Specialist as well. What I will do here is explain the differences among the resorts and some things to think about when you are choosing your resort.
Disney divides its resort experiences into categories:
Disney Deluxe Villas
This category includes all the Disney Vacation Club properties, studio, one or two-bedroom home-away-from-home type accommodations. They also feature all the same amenities as Disney’s Deluxe resorts.
Disney Deluxe Resort Hotels
For these resorts you will be treated to the finest rooms Disney has to offer. Extra amenities, such as full-service dining and pool features, room details like in-room hair dryers and luxurious comforts await you here. These properties also feature valet parking for a fee.
Disney Moderate Resort Hotels
This category is a step up from the value resorts, offering more amenities and space without a huge jump in price. Here you will find pools with waterslides, more activities and most have full-service dining as well.
Disney Value Resort Hotels
For the budget conscious, these resorts feature typical motel room function with added Disney flair and fun. Food courts, huge pools, everything is bigger in this category, except the price.
Here you can pitch a tent under the stars, park your RV, or relax in a Disney-built wilderness cabin, all while enjoying the wonderful activities that Fort Wilderness has to offer.
Disney Accommodations for 5 or more guests
If you have a family that doesn’t fit in a typical one-room hotel, but don’t want to spread out into two separate hotel rooms, you can find what you need here.
Once you decide which resort category best fits your family, you can move on to the next option – location! Do you find yourself spending most of your time at the Magic Kingdom? Epcot? There’s no doubt a resort to keep you close-by your favorite park.
Magic Kingdom area Resorts:
Of course the most well-known are the “Big 3” of The Contemporary Resort and now the Bay Lake Tower villas at the Contemporary, The Polynesian Resort and The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. All three of these are on the monorail loop leading to both the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center, so you need only step out to the monorail platform to get to the magic. If you want to head to Epcot, a trip to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) will let you switch to the Epcot Monorail. From there you could take a boat from Epcot’s World Showcase to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or get a bus directly there from the TTC. There are also buses directly from each resort to all the theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Wilderness Lodge Villas are also in the Magic Kingdom resort area, though not on the monorail loop. You can, however take a boat directly to the Magic Kingdom from the Wilderness Lodge property. If you want to head to the other parks and Downtown Disney, buses will take you there. Fort Wilderness Campground is also part of the Magic Kingdom resort area, with boat access directly to Magic Kingdom. Bus service is available to all other theme parks, as well as the TTC.
Epcot area Resorts:
Located a short walk (or boat ride) from the International Gateway entrance to Epcot’s World Showcase, are Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney’s Beach Club Resorts, Beach Club Villas, as well as Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Boardwalk Villas. Also accessible here are the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, run by Sheraton. These resorts also offer the same boat service directly to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resorts are also part of the Epcot resort area, though not accessible by boat or walking, only by bus.
Animal Kingdom area Resorts:
There is not direct boat or monorail service to Animal Kingdom, but there are still resorts very close to this park, including of course Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Jambo House and Kidani Village Villas. Also in this area are the All-Star Sports, All-Star Music and All-Star Movies resorts and Coronado Springs Resort and Convention Center. All of these resorts feature direct buses to the parks and Downtown Disney.
Downtown Disney area Resorts:
This area features the resorts of Old Key West, the original Disney Vacation Club property, Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside (Riverside is formerly known as Dixie Landings), Saratoga Springs and the newly refurbished Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs. All of these properties feature boat access directly to Downtown Disney and bus service to the parks.
Those are the two main criteria when choosing which Disney Resort will fit you best. Once you decide your budget and the location you’d like to stay in, you can narrow the choices down based on which amenities will best fit your family. Things like which pool would you enjoy the most, which resort has water or other sports activities, full-service restaurants, which resort theming would you or your family enjoy the most.
It’s hard to recommend a specific resort here, because each family is different – which is precisely why Disney World has SO many options to stay in! A family with small children might love the larger-than-life decorations at an All-Star property or Pop Century, but they might be equally as entertained by seeing animals out their window in a savannah view room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The choice is up to you! When I asked my Twitter followers to name their favorite resort, there were almost no two answers that were the same. Everyone has their favorite, for different reasons. Even among families, each person may have their own favorite resort – and that may even change over time. It’s great to resort-hop and check out what else is out there for a return visit.
In the coming weeks, I will be featuring blogs on individual resorts, to give you more of an idea of what each property has to offer. Enjoy the decision process – it’s quite exciting! I hope you find your ‘home’ at Disney World – I’d love to hear about your favorite resort, comment and tell me all about it.
As I discussed in my history of Disney obsession, I came to love Walt Disney World the way most kids do, on a family vacation.
Part of what makes it so magical is that you are leaving your comfortable surroundings; you are venturing into another world, and when it’s over, you go home and pine away for a time when you can do it all over again. But what happens when you are raised in an environment where you can go to Disney World every weekend, or if you really felt like it (and gas prices didn’t cost an appendage or two), every day? Does it become less magical? Do you become spoiled by what is no longer in a kingdom far far away, but happens as often as “we’re going to the mall, kids“?
After we all retired our Cast Member name tags, we purchased annual passes and still went pretty much every weekend. Sometimes we’d just go for lunch or dinner and not even go on a single ride. When my first son was born in 1999, we had been living in the Orlando area and been park regulars for the past 4 years. It seemed only natural to head to the opening of the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom when he was 3 weeks old. We got several stink-eye looks from wizened old grannies that always have advice to offer new parents “He needs a hat!” “He needs booties!” “He needs more blankets!” (yes, even in Florida, you get told to add layers!). Many asked “How OLD is he?!” and when I answered “3 weeks” I did so with the disclaimer, “Oh, we just live down the street, it’s not like we’re here for a 10 day vacation.” That seemed to satisfy them a bit, although I’m not sure why I cared to explain myself – we were at Tower of Terror one time when a mother was getting quite irate with Cast Members for not being allowed to bring her six week old infant on the ride. Yes, really.
So our firstborn grew up getting wheeled around Disney World until we sold our house and moved back to Massachusetts (a long story, but basically, we had a child and both exclaimed – “We can’t possibly raise a child in FLORIDA! We must return to Boston, to history and culture!” – We were back in FL within 6 months). At that time, I was pregnant with our daughter. She was born in Massachusetts, and we did indeed return to Florida 6 months later. She too, was wheeled around Disney World like her brother had been. Of course at 2 years old and 6 months old, they were too young to remember what they experienced anyway, but we had fun. Cue a few more moves, and we didn’t really return to Florida to live until 2003.
Before that, back in 2002 we had one wonderful, crazed visit where my husband’s parents, brother and his girlfriend, and the 4 of us in our mini-van all drove down to Orlando from Boston. The kids were then 3 and almost-2 at the time. Just the right age to enjoy most everything and be get that wonderful look of awe on their faces that Disney inspires. Of course they were also amazed by South of the Border on the trip back home, but…we’ll let that slide. It was the perfect little vacation so we could all experience what it was like to be a tourist at Disney again, rather than a local. The crazed part came with the super-cold front that rolled in, forcing us to seek out sweatpants and sweatshirts for the kids. My father-in-law got sick so their group went home a day early, and our son got sick as well – he decided to create a whole new appetizer at Canada’s Le Cellier while we waited to order. Ew. Just because that needed to be topped, I got the brilliant idea to adopt a pair of kittens from someone I had met online, so we met them in a Super Wal-Mart parking lot, picked up 2 tiny mewing kittens, supplies for them, and proceeded to drive back home in the now renamed Bodily Function Central mini-van. Despite those setbacks, it was nice to make a whole journey out of the trip and enjoy lots of things we’d missed for years by taking quick day trips.
Fast forward to 2003 when we took up residence again, we went back to weekend visits and trying out new lunch or dinner spots. The kids did not, in fact, lose their wonderment of the Happiest Place on Earth. They both got into pin collecting, and we got excited about what had become our family traditions – Mother’s Day at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, October at the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party followed by http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/special-events/epcot-international-food-and-wine-festival/, ending with of course the amazing decorations for the holidays,
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party with its snow on Main Street, USA, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights (which make me cry each time), and the gorgeous trees in the resorts. We just shared our traditions with several hundred thousand other visitors to The World.
When we moved outside of Tampa in 2005, we visited a little less frequently. It certainly wasn’t every weekend, but we kept the family traditions alive. There was always something new to see, some refurbished ride or restaurant or resort to explore – it never got old. Then last year, I had our 2nd son, our 3rd child.
We waited a whole 10 weeks before bringing him to Disney for the first time, for the holiday celebrations mentioned above. He did pretty well at the Very Merry Christmas Party, it was me that was pretty much over breastfeeding with throngs of people getting their free hot chocolate and cookies around the park (but I still had fun!). He made it through the special nighttime Christmas parade, and we walked out as the Wishes fireworks were going on.
Since then, we’ve visited a lot more frequently, but I realized something when we had our good friends visiting from California. We had become dependent on the phrase “don’t worry, we can come back anytime”. Any time there was more than a 20 minute wait, or we didn’t want to deal with the baby getting in and out of the stroller, we said “catch ya next time” to a LOT of attractions. We, as parents, were still having fun people watching and having a Disney-quality lunch or dinner somewhere, but as parents know there’s only so much “walking around” kids can do (especially as they approach that fun tween age) before they start to formulate plans for mutiny involving the release of the Sword in the Stone from its imprisonment, on the back of a Disney World napkin as we stop for lunch.
My oldest son is also getting to the point (10 ½) where he doesn’t want to go on ANY rides. Don’t get me wrong, he still loves Disney and loves even more when we take mini-vacations and stay in a condo for a couple of nights. He seems to love the experience of the park, but just doesn’t want to bother going on the rides right now. I’m not worried, I know this too shall pass. I went through a phase when I was that age where I was completely PETRIFIED of the Haunted Mansion. I’d been on it a billion times, I knew it wasn’t “scary” but I still did NOT want to go on that ride and no amount of begging could convince me. Pirates wasn’t much better with all the skeletons. I’m not sure if he’s inherited a bit of that or not, but he’s a kid that begs to see every new horror film that comes out, so I’m thinking no. That is another part of living slow close to the parks – you can, but don’t have to go all the time. I’m sure with a break, he’ll be extra excited to ride all his old favorites.
During that visit with our Californian friends, I made a promise to my daughter that we would go on Splash Mountain next time we came to Disney no matter what. That next time was when we saw the Hall of Presidents preview. We were lucky enough to be gifted some Fast Passes when we were waiting in line, so we walked right on. It was her first time, and she LOVED it. So I decided then and there that we were going to have a Girls Day Out at Disney World. When we got home, I got out our customized Disney maps I’d ordered a year ago when we stayed at Dixie Landings (oops, I mean Port Orleans Riverside), and told her to make a list of all the rides she wanted to go on when we went. She was quite excited about that. Our itinerary is going to involve 3 parks. We’re starting out in Animal Kingdom, heading to Epcot and ending up in Magic Kingdom to go on all the rides there at night. It’ll just be us so there won’t be anyone complaining that they don’t want to go on this ride or that, and the baby will be at home so it’ll be that much easier to get around.
I think that proves that after all these years and after countless visits, my kids still get excited for the magic that exists only within Walt’s World. Sure, my oldest may be more interested in X-box 360 right now, but I have no doubt he’ll want to get back to Disney soon enough. Living here as given us the opportunities to truly experience all The World has to offer, that we might not otherwise be able to squeeze into a traditional vacation. We’ve been able to see Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, the boys have rented the watercraft at Downtown Disney while our princess was turned into a princess at Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique. We’ve been able to stroll around Downtown Disney and see the ins and outs of each shop, try new restaurants when they open, go to both miniature golf courses, resort hop and look in the shops or try the restaurants, and do tours at Magic Kingdom. Disney has become like a second home for my children, as it is for the adults in the family as well. Sure, I’d love to be able to take a 10 day vacation on property with the dining plan, but I love being able to pop over for special events or just because I’m in the mood for Dole Whip. That, is magic.
And despite the loud parties many nights, I have to say Disney is a pretty good neighbor. Can’t really complain too much. They’re clean, always keep their lawn mowed, and they do have the best fireworks on the block.
What better item to review this week than the *all new* Hall of Presidents attraction at Walt Disney World – now with added Obamatron!
There was a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder preview on Sunday, June 28th, so we decided to drive over and check it out. The last time we’d seen this show was in November of 2007, when Maya Angelou was still narrating, and the movie/history leading up to the Presidential roll call was quite, quite long. However, I had hope that this NEW Hall of Presidents would be great.
I was right. First, before entering the theatre, there were some historical items in the lobby area. First Ladies’ dresses, W’s boots, interesting things to pass the time. Our wait wasn’t too long though and soon we were seated inside.
We instantly recognized the narrator as Morgan Freeman, who seems to have replaced James Earl Jones as the most awe-inspiring orator out there right now. I love his voice. He told the story of the Presidents from the point of view of them being ‘ordinary men’ highlighting Washington’s choice to step down after two terms, Andrew Jackson’s run as the first non-aristocratic nominee, the two Roosevelt’s and Kennedy’s connection to the people, and finally Obama’s historic win.
The Lincoln audioanimatronic also came out in the middle of the film sequence, stood up and read his entire Gettysburg address, and soon it was time for the remaining Presidents to appear. They each nodded when the spotlight hit them, as usual.
Next, Barrack Hussein Obama announced himself and recited his Oath of Office. He also made a speech about the American spirit that lives within all of us. Quite moving. The whole attraction leaves you uplifted and renewed with patriotism, something I can honestly say I did not feel the last time we attended the attraction.
If you are a Disney fan and will be visiting The World soon, I highly encourage a visit to this sometimes overlooked attraction. You’ll be glad you did!
(image courtesy of wdwmagic.com)
So there you go. More reviews to come. If there is a product, service, film, book, or anything you’d like me to review here, please just drop me a line.