Jul 012015
 

By Roye Ann Morris

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As I was going through some old photo albums recently, looking for a picture for a school project, I came across the scrapbook I had made from my very first trip to Walt Disney World. Although I had not taken many pictures, and the ones I had taken were sadly faded, it brought back so many memories of my introduction to a place that my family and I have come to love.

The year was 1975 (yes, I am that old!), and my sister and I were both in junior high school. My mother, who had recently become a single parent, was a teacher, so we were all on spring break. I can still remember reading about the Magic Kingdom being built in Florida in a Weekly Reader we had in our classroom. It did indeed sound magical, and my sister and I found it hard to believe we were getting to go! So we took off; my mom, her sister (who was our favorite aunt!), and the two of us, driving to Florida in the family car.

Looking back at that trip now, I can only begin to imagine what it must have cost my mother, not just in monetary terms, but also in worry and anxiety over the trip. Here she was, a young mom in her thirties, no husband to help, driving from her home in Mississippi from which she had rarely ventured, all the way to Orlando, Florida. No GPS, no cell phone, just an atlas and a few state maps, the kind you can never fold up properly once they are open.

My sister and I were blithely unaware of all this, of course, but now that I’m a mom, I can identify with the pressure she surely felt to make the trip safe and fun. The only time I remember being the least bit worried during the drive was when we got so very lost in a small town somewhere in Alabama. My mom actually flagged down a policeman to give us directions, and my sister and I were so embarrassed that we hid in the floor of the back seat. How’s that for being supportive!

We stayed offsite in a small hotel with a shuttle to the park. I still remember getting up very early and lining up to get on the bus. We wanted to get an early start since we only had one day. Even after reading about the Magic Kingdom and seeing news stories and watching The Wonderful World of Disney shows about the park, we were not prepared for what we saw when we arrived. I can remember feeling overwhelmed, and wondering where to start and how we would ever see it all! But mostly I remember the excitement of finally being there after the two day drive and the bus ride. I still feel the same way every time we go!

Disney Ticket Books

My mom bought us each an 8 Adventure Ticket Book that cost $6.00. Can you even imagine – $6.00 for a ticket to the Magic Kingdom! There were tickets for the attractions available, divided into A, B, C, D, and E categories. The only problem was that there was not enough of each type of ticket to do every ride in the category! And my mom would only buy one Ticket Book for each of us! My sister and I stood there and discussed (and maybe argued) which rides we absolutely had to do and which ones we could skip. I do seem to remember that in the end, after much begging and pleading, Mom bought us each another book.

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We were also given a pamphlet titled “Your Complete Guide to Walt Disney World”. It included a list of each land in the park, its attractions, shops and restaurants, and a fold-out map of the Magic Kingdom. At the back of the pamphlet was a list of the resorts; The Polynesian Village, the Contemporary, the Golf Resort, and Fort Wilderness, along with everything available at each resort. There was even a section on taking pictures and movies, and tips on touring the park. One of the tips was a list of attractions that tended to develop long lines in the afternoons – the Skyway, Haunted Mansion, Country Bear Jamboree, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Grand Prix Raceway were all on the list!

I don’t have any memory of what order we rode the rides in, or what we ate or if we watched the parade. I do remember my aunt, who always struggled with motion sickness, throwing her scarf over her face during If You Had Wings (how many people remember that??) and Peter Pan’s Flight. We rode the Skyway, a ride that I was very sorry to see leave, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one which I do not miss! Mostly I remember the sense of wonder as we went to each new land, each attraction seeming more amazing than the last. I also recall a serious argument that lasted the rest of the trip about whether the men in the The Hall of Presidents were real!

Before putting everything back into the scrapbook, I called my three boys who were at home to come have a look at the pictures and ticket books. It was hard for them to even imagine a Disney World with only the Magic Kingdom, and tickets that only cost $6.00. We had a lot of fun walking down memory lane together, and they enjoyed hearing the story of my first trip. They also had a few laughs over the clothes and hairdos in the pictures, but that’s another story!

Dec 172014
 

By Melissa Bejer

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Magical moments around Walt Disney World are plentiful throughout the year, but somehow, around the holidays, they are even more magical! 2014 has been no different. Below are just a few memorable magical holiday moments we experienced a few weeks ago.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was full of magical holiday moments! This year, we participated in the Holiday Hootenanny at the Diamond Horseshoe.   This is a new dance party hosted by the Country Bear Jamboree fellas and also participating were Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, and my personal favorite, Clara Cluck. The clock struck 7pm, and MVMCP had officially kicked off when we entered the Holiday Hootenanny. I had the pleasure of dancing with the Country Bears all by myself, as we were the first family walking in the door. There is a reason they call it a Hootenanny, it was a real hoot! Those bears can cut a rug! They played all kinds of music during the dance party, from disco, rock and roll, country and Christmas songs too. The Country Bears took a break after about a half hour of hootenannying, which left the dance floor open for Horace, Clarabelle and Clara to come and share in some of the fun. Clara was even getting people to do “the sprinkler” dance. For the rest of the night, whenever we were a quick mosey away from Frontierland, my family let me run in for a dance or two!

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A good tip if you are waiting in line for Uncle Scrooge, Donald, and Daisy: the line is twice as long as Santa Goofy’s line. I was able to grab a quick Merry Christmas with Santa Goofy (he is right across the walkway from the ducks), while my husband held the line and although we still had a 20 minute wait when I got back, it felt like we got a real deal – a bit of a quadruple holiday treat for the time we waited!

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Nothing is more festive than during MVMCP when it snows on Main Street while drinking your complimentary hot cocoa. If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, even Uncle Scrooge will roll his eyes are your bah humbugness!

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We stayed at the Contemporary during our trip, and this year the resort’s festive display was an homage to Frozen, in all GINGERBREAD AND CHOCOLATE! They also had a small area set up for Frozen merchandise and some gingerbread and chocolate goodness for purchase should you sweet tooth get inspired by the display.

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Christmas Duffy was greeting guests over at his usual spot in Epcot, he’s always such a fun character to visit.

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And file under rare character sighting (these seems to pop up from time to time around the holidays), Launchpad McQuack from Duck Tails – we found him over by the International Gateway. (Ed. note: While rare characters are just that, rare, sometimes you can happen upon them at the International Gateway. So, always be on the lookout, as these are fun meet and greet opportunities when they do indeed happen.)

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The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights never disappoints. It is a holiday feast for the eyes and the ears, and every 15 minutes there is a light show to the tune of various Christmas carols. While it can get crowded while walking around viewing the twinkling lights, the crowd actually adds to the ambiance of the scene, as many people are singing along to the carols. It feels like true holiday spirit as everyone sings songs together and marvels at the wonder of it all. I highly recommend a good spectacling!

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In typical Magic Kingdom fashion, Christmas was in the air all over Main Street! Staring with the Dapper Dans and singing their beautiful carols while playing their organ chimes (Silver Bells, Frosty, Rudolph – they have so many good tunes in their repertoire).

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And don’t forget to catch the Trolley Show with the Main Street citizens and their song and dance medley of Sleigh Ride, Jingle Bells, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

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But Cinderella’s Castle is simply magnificent during the holidays, by day or by night.

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Food Related Honorable Mention (not holiday related, but still memorable) – The famous “croissant doughnut” that is being replicated across the globe as an alternative to the famous Cronut invented and trademarked by Chef Dominique Ansel out of his bakery in New York City, can be found at the Refreshment Port in Epcot. It has been home to the Refreshment Port for about a year now, but if you have walked past the Refreshment Port without knowledge that it is the home of mouthwatering delights, you are missing out big time. Disney’s version of the croissant doughnut is fluffy and light, tossed in cinnamon sugar and while I don’t use this word often, it is delectable! Do not pass up a chance to sample this heavenly treat. Keep in mind, if you decide to partake in this scrumptious yumminess, the Refreshment Port doesn’t open until 11am. So if you were thinking of stopping for a quick breakfast (given that separately, croissants and doughnuts are breakfasty foods), make sure you plan on eating breakfast late morning. And enjoy the water view!

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Season’s Greetings to all, from myself and the mayor of Main Street, Honorable Mayor Christopher George Weaver!

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Jun 252014
 

By Roye Ann Morris

Earlier this year, Disney announced another 24 hour event for Memorial Day Weekend, called Rock Your Disney Side. While I never need an excuse to go to Walt Disney World, the fact that my 14 year old son had been begging to attend one of the Magic Kingdom’s 24 hour days for over a year had finally persuaded me that we should plan a trip for this year’s event. The thought of staying up for 24 hours straight doesn’t normally appeal to me, but if you are going to attempt it, Disney is certainly the place to try! I decided to dive in and make the drive to Disney.

I made our reservations to stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, which is my son’s favorite value hotel. I had originally planned to keep the trip a surprise, picking him up from school after his last exam, however, after I told both of his older brothers (who had work schedules that needed arranging), one of them accidentally let the cat out of the bag! In the end, it turned out for the best, as he was still surprised (just a day early), and was able to pack his own suitcase, as well as share the excitement with friends before we left.

We began our 13 hour drive right after school let out, but because of road delays, it ending up turning into a 15 hour trip. Once we finally arrived at Pop Century, the check-in process went smoothly and we received our Magic Bands. We finally got into bed at around 2:00 am.

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Initially, I had hoped to be at the Magic Kingdom by 8:00 am on May 23, but seeing as how we had an extremely late bedtime it didn’t seem like the best idea. Instead, I let the boys sleep until 8 am and we made it to Magic Kingdom at around 9:30 am.

The line to enter the park was short, and we quickly scanned our Magic Bands at the turnstiles, where cast members were handing out special Maleficent buttons to promote the movie. The park was not very crowded and although I had made several FastPass+ reservations, we really didn’t need them.

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Our first stop was to walk through the Emporium on Main Street to check out the t-shirts that were available for the special day, and there were plenty of them available in all sizes. Next we headed for the Haunted Mansion, used our FastPass+ reservations for Big Thunder Mountain, then headed on into Fantasyland. To my surprise, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train was up and running! We talked about getting in the 55 minute line, but decided to keep our other FastPass+ reservations instead, deciding that we were going to try to ride it later that night.

After we finished the rides we had pre-scheduled, it was beginning to get very hot and crowded. We had late lunch reservations scheduled for Kona Café in the Polynesian, so we took the monorail over and enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the air conditioning! The boys and I were starting to feel the effects of the heat and the lack of sleep, so we decided to head back to Pop Century for a nap. We left our car at the Transportation and Ticket Center and took the bus so that we would not have to look for parking when we returned later in the evening. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea; the line for the bus to Pop Century was probably the longest one we waited in the whole day! All three boys ended up sleeping till around 7:00 pm and felt ready to attack the park again.

I had read other reviews from last year about what a bottleneck Main Street had been after the parades and fireworks, so when we got to the park around 9:30 pm, we decided to take the train to Frontierland to avoid the likely bottleneck. Looking out from the train platform before we boarded, all you could see was a solid mass of people. I was so glad we decided not to try walking down Main Street.

The back of the park was not terribly crowded, but there were certainly plenty of people! We rode a few attractions, then had a very late supper at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland. We kept checking back at the Seven Dwarves coaster, but the line continued to grow longer. By this time in the evening, most of the attractions were walk-ons. Space Mountain had a long wait listed, but we happened to arrive just as it was being brought back up after technical difficulties, so the boys were able to get right on. We took a ride around the Tomorrowland Transit Authority a couple of times, watching bits of The Incredibles, which was being shown continuously on the big screen at the Rockettower Plaza Stage. We actually saw a lot of people taking advantage of the movie, lying on blankets or towels attempting to take a short break or nap!

By about 4:00 am, we had ridden every attraction we had wanted to and were starting to get hungry again. The boys thought that cinnamon rolls sounded good, so we headed back to Gaston’s Tavern, where we split one 4 ways, and had a Coke for a little caffeine boost to help us finish out the day! When we were done, it was about an hour before the park was to close at 6:00 AM. We checked the Mine Train one last time; the wait was listed as 115 minutes! So, sadly, we did not get to ride. I think I was more disappointed than the boys! Lesson learned – with a new ride, in spite of the wait, get in line early and just do it!

The boys and I started heading toward the front of the park around 5:00 am. We stopped to watch several of the dance parties going on, and were surprised by how empty the park felt. Although we all felt fairly fresh, the boys decided that the best idea was to head to the exit before the crowd decided to. We rode an almost empty ferry back to the TTC, and climbed in our car, tired but happy that we had made it through the night. The sun was just peeking over the horizon when we got back to our room.

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The big question is, would we do it again? Yes, however, I would make a few changes. I would try to plan a day between the drive and the 24 hour day at Disney. This year, our school schedules made that impossible, however, having that extra day for a little extra rest seems imperative. I also might reconsider if the temperatures are forecasted to be in the nineties, as they were for this trip. The heat and the lack of sleep made it necessary to spend more time in the room than we otherwise would have. And finally, and this is a tip that isn’t necessarily geared toward a 24 hour party, but if a new ride has appeared to have opened early, ride it the first chance you get!

All in all, it was a great trip, and I think it will be a special memory for all three of my sons.

Mar 052014
 

By Melissa Bejer

Be Our Guest Menu

Entering into New Fantasyland, there was an enchanting energy that came over me. Looking up past Belle’s cottage, I could see Beast’s Castle in the background.  Thankfully, I was in Walt Disney World, one of the few places on the planet where it is socially acceptable to jump up and down in excitement and I did just that!  My enthusiasm was contagious, as my non-Disney fan husband seemed to be enjoying the anticipation as much as I was.

Since reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant are not the easiest to obtain, I felt a sense of gratitude knowing when I checked in at the top of the bridge leading to the restaurant, I would be granted a pager, letting us know when our table would be ready.  While this particular dinner was not my first meal at Be Our Guest, it was my husband’s first time, and I wanted it to be as special as possible.  I asked the Cast Member at the check-in booth if we could be seated in the West Wing.  She assured me they would do their best to honor my request.  My husband was a little nervous my request would mean the wait for our table would be longer, and he insisted it didn’t matter to him where we sat.  I assured him that the wait would be worth it.

Under normal circumstances, waiting is not my favorite thing.  However, waiting for our Be Our Guest table was actually one of my favorite parts of the experience.  Standing on the bridge, taking in the sight and sound of the waterfall in the background, it was a beautiful experience that could get overlooked if you got rushed right into the Be Our Guest Ballroomrestaurant.  Soaking it all in, still excited with anticipation, within 5 minutes our buzzer went off.

I thought for sure that because our buzzer went off, we would not get a chance to sit in the West Wing, but as we met up with the Cast Member that was seating us, she quickly assured us that our table was indeed in the West Wing.  More WDW socially acceptable squealing with delight ensued.

As we walked through the restaurant, the Cast Member gave us the tour of the ballroom.  It was just as beautiful as I remembered it.  The chandeliers were glistening, and as I looked across the ballroom, the snow was falling outside.  We were also instructed as to where Beast would be meeting guests after our meal.  In my ever building excitement, it was quite possible I sEnchanted Rose at Be Our Guestkipped through the ballroom as we made our way to the West Wing.

We were seated in what I now deem as the perfect spot.  Given the other patrons of the restaurant tend to explore the West Wing during/after their meal, spots near the fireplace or the enchanted rose display can see more foot traffic.  We were tucked away in the corner on the opposite side of the room.  There was no one behind us, and the quiet candlelit room was very cozy.  For me, the subtle darkness of the room, not only  epitomizes the ambiance of the movie, but is part of the charm.

The staff was exceptionally friendly, but it wasn’t at all forced.  Our waitress discussed the menu with us a bit, and my husband and I decided to order the Braised Pork cooked with mushrooms, onions, carrots and bacon served with green beans and mashed potatoes.  We didn’t wait long before our drinks and warm bread were served to us.  I enjoyed watching my husband soaking in the West Wing, hearing the thunderstorm penetrating through the room as we indulged in the delicious bread. Poison Apple Cupcake

Dinner was fabulous.  The braised pork almost tasted like a pot roast to me, it was so tender.  I enjoyed every morsel.  During our meal, I watched as our waitress wheeled the dessert cart to her other tables.  From the vantage point at my table, the colorful sweet treats looked like works of art.  I think I unconsciously started to eat my dinner more quickly than I normally would have in order to get to dessert that much faster.

Soon it was our turn to gaze at the dessert cart.  One of each?  I had to admit, I was considering the option.  I opted for the seasonal cupcake (it was Halloween during this trip) and there was a Poison Apple cupcake that was calling my name.  With purple frosting, some green apple sauce dabbed on top, and a chocolate candy The Gray Stuffwitches hat covering the green apple sauce, the taste of the cupcake was as delicious as it looked.

My husband opted for the Grey Stuff cupcake.  We decided to split the desserts with each other so we could sample the best of both worlds.  I enjoyed the Poison Apple cupcake, but the Grey Stuff was well beyond delicious.  There was a brief moment that I thought of ordering a second helping of Grey Stuff (even though I was completely stuffed) when our waitress explained the Grey Stuff cupcake was Beast at Be Our Guestalso on the lunch menu.  I thought I would quit while I was ahead, as we had plans for lunch at Be Our Guest in just a few days.

On our way out of the castle, we were told that Beast was accepting guests to meet with him.  As we turned to look in the area where there he was waiting, and with no one in line.  We decided to say hello to our host, and took a few pictures.  It was a great way to end our wonderful dinner.

 

Nov 132013
 

By Rikki Niblett

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Wow!  The Holiday Season is upon us (Wasn’t it just January?)  The glorious festive fun is back with colors or red and green popping up, Christmas songs playing on the radio, and holiday decorations everywhere you look.  So, with the Holidays popping up around me in my daily life, it’s also plain to see that they have taken their place already at Walt Disney World too!  Let’s take a look at all the activities that guests can participate in at the four Disney theme parks in Florida.

The Magic Kingdom starts things off and it’s considered by many to be a park so rich in Holiday traditions.  It almost feels like it’s Christmas morning each time you step foot in the park!

There are a few major activities that take place here and the first is something that the whole family can delight in each and every night and that is the Castle Dream Lights. The only word I can use to describe them is breathtaking.  I can’t tell you how much photos cannot do this justice.  The colors simply glow in a way that you can’t even imagine.  Guests should also not miss the special Castle Lighting ceremony which takes place called Cinderella’s Holiday Wish, where Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother works her magic to get those lights to sparkle!  This show takes place anywhere between 6 pm and 6:30 pm, so check your Times Guide and be prepared to be in awe.

The Magic Kingdom also gets into the holiday spirit with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special hard ticketed event that happens on select nights.  The two major draws for this Party which are the Christmas parade, as well as the fireworks extravaganza.

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Oct 302013
 

By Chris Johnson

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Are you a fan of Halloween? I am, but mostly only because I met my wife at a Halloween party. LOL

In general I was never a fan of the holiday. As a life-long Disneyphile however, I can say, without a doubt, that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party is easily my favorite event or party that occurs regularly in any of the Walt Disney World parks.

For those that might not be familiar, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) is a hard ticket event that takes place on certain nights each year starting in mid-September and ending in early November. A hard ticket means that guests who would like to attend will need to purchase another ticket in addition to their regular park ticket in order to do so.

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