Sep 212016
 

By Roye Ann Morris

 

As I was getting ready to plan our next trip to Disney World, my mind wandered to previous trips and some of my favorite things that are no more.  I began to dig through scrapbooks and photo albums, searching for pictures of long-gone attractions and shows that my family and I had enjoyed through the years. Here are a few of my favorites!

Disney Dollars

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We loved collecting these as we waited for our next Disney trip. Although they are no longer available, Disney will still honor any you might have. I think I’ll keep these, though; the memory is worth more than anything the dollars might buy!

River Country and Discovery Island

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This is a pamphlet dated 1983. A one-day pass to Magic Kingdom or Epcot was $15 for adults, $14 for juniors, and $12 for children. We never made it to River Country, but Discovery Island was amazing! I still remember my mom posing for this picture, and shortly after it was taken being bitten by an emu she was trying to feed. Being an animal lover, the day we spent here was pure joy for me. I was very sad to see Discovery Island close, but I take every chance I can to visit Animal Kingdom!

Dreamfinder and Figment

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This is from the newspaper Disney used to print for guests, dated March 4-17, 1983. As I’ve said before, these two characters and the original Journey into Imagination were my absolute favorite things about Epcot. We always set aside time to play in the pavilion after the ride, and I was thrilled when my kids were able to get a picture with Figment on one of our trips. I really believe that if the original ride came back, people would fall in love with it again!

Epcot Restaurants

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This little folded pamphlet included tips on planning your visit and a list of Epcot Center counter service restaurants. Some of the tips inside it were: “Visit Magic Kingdom in the morning and Epcot Center in the afternoon. Take in the wonders of Future World later in the day. Make your dinner reservations at Earth Station before 10 A.M. World Showcase dinner reservations may also be made at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom.” My, how things have changed! Can you imagine Le Cellier as a counter service spot?

 

The Waterfalls in the Polynesian Lobby

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My family took a picture in this spot every time we were in the Polynesian. It was truly one of my favorite places in the World; beautiful, serene, a kind of oasis in the middle of busyness. Although the new lobby is also beautiful with its wide-open spaces and bright colors, this may be the thing I miss the most.

Random Character Photo Ops

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While I realize that having a schedule for character appearances makes it easier to plan your day, happening upon a character as he (she? it?) walked through the park was always a fun surprise. We always felt like we had won a prize if we were the first or second in line when a character appeared.  Even if you didn’t necessarily know exactly who it was…. Does anybody know who this is??

Maelstrom in Norway

Of our favorite rides, although more recent than the other memories. I do love “Frozen”, but I am sad that people will not get to ride through the beauty that was Maelstrom, and was very sorry to see it “Disappear, Disappear”! Although I am definitely looking forward to the new “Frozen” attraction on our upcoming trip!

Well, enough reminiscing for one article. I’m still looking for pictures of other favorites: Orange Bird, Horizons, World of Motion, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride….what are your favorite bygone attractions at Disney?

Jun 292016
 

By Roye Ann Morris

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It was 1983. My college roommate, who had also been my best friend since first grade, and I were both Disney fans, and a trip there for spring break seemed like a grand idea. Somehow we convinced our moms that we could handle the trip alone. In the days before cell phones, GPS, and Google maps, a 13 hour car trip was a pretty big undertaking! We recruited my younger sister to go along, and set out for Florida, so giddy we could barely stop giggling for the whole trip.

We had road maps and hand-written directions for driving around the larger cities like Birmingham and Atlanta. I kept the map my mom drew for Birmingham; she drew the cloverleaf around the city and wrote “No!” beside the exits we were not supposed to take. Our first stop was Macon, Georgia, to spend the night with friends. The next morning we drove on to Orlando, where we checked into the Holiday Inn, Maingate East. I still have the hotel bill; the rooms were $81 a night! My friend and I could hardly wait to get to the parks, but my sister opted to stay at the hotel pool and get some sun. So we loaded back into the car without her, and off we went!

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Epcot and the World Showcase had made their debut by this trip, but we opted to start at the Magic Kingdom. We bought a 4-day ticket right outside the park; it was so much easier to have the one paper ticket that covered everything instead of the ticket books! According to the copy of the Walt Disney World News which I found in my scrapbook, the cost was $45! Our goal was to ride everything we could, then meet my sister later. She was more excited at that point to be sitting by the pool than to be at the parks, so she said she would ride whatever we had not had time for after she got to the park. I still remember meeting her at the front gate and watching the magic of Disney surround her. Standing in front of Cinderella’s castle, she took a deep breath and said, “You’ll have to start over; I need to ride them all!” So that’s what we did!

The next morning we headed for Epcot Center, as it was called on the park information. We weren’t really sure about what to expect; we had a vague idea of what the park was supposed to be like from reading about it, but were excited to see it in person. Our first stop was Earth Station, located under Spaceship Earth, where you could book dinner reservations at the World Showcase restaurants. The Walt Disney World News advised that you should make your reservations before 10AM, as most restaurants would be booked after that time. We talked to a live cast member on what looked like a TV screen; who knew that was even possible! It all seemed very much like the future, and we were so impressed and a little nervous. Not being very adventurous eaters at the time, we chose San Angel Inn for dinner and walked out laughing about how we must have looked so silly to the Cast Member since we had no idea what we were doing!

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My favorite memory of that day was Journey into Imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment. I’m sure we went through every attraction, but this one has stayed with me even today. Figment remains one of my favorite Disney characters, and I must say I miss the original ride with Dreamfinder and Image Works to play in after the ride. We were singing the song for the rest of the day. We spent time in Communicore East and West, and enjoyed a ride through the World of Motion. Horizons was still being built.

We headed to World Showcase in time for our dinner reservation, walking slowly through all the countries, admiring all the details of each one. Norway and Morocco were not part of the showcase yet. Our dinner at San Angel Inn was amazing; we were waited on by attentive (and attractive!) Cast Members and served wonderful food. Being small-town girls, we had never eaten at a restaurant where refills on your drinks were free. We had ordered iced tea, and weren’t drinking it so we could save it to go with our meal. Our server walked over to ask if anything was wrong with our tea, and we were so embarrassed when he had to explain to us that we could have as many refills as we wanted! Again, very small-town girls!

We spent two days in each of the parks, and every minute was like being in a dream; on our own, no parents, doing what we wanted when we wanted to, and feeling safe and taken care of the whole time. I’m sure there were moments on that trip that weren’t perfect, but I don’t remember them at all. Wouldn’t it be magical to go back to that time of relative innocence, feeling safe, and having few worries? Although that’s how I feel each time I visit Disney, bringing back the $45 tickets would be magical, too!

Oct 212015
 

By Teresa Pitman

Eating Vegan at the Magic Kingdom

It’s the heart of Disney Magic. The first place many people think of when they hear the words “Walt Disney World.” The favorite park of most kids. But what’s it like eating at the Magic Kingdom for vegans?

To be honest, it’s not always easy. As a vegan (meaning I eat no meat or fish or animal products such as eggs or milk), it’s sometimes a challenge to get a tasty and satisfying meal in the park with Cinderella Castle. However, there is good news: it’s definitely been improving in recent years. Here are some tips for hungry vegans:

Snacks:

  • Dole whip! Yes, Dole whip is now vegan! Enjoy!
  • WDW popcorn is vegan despite that rather buttery taste.
  • Soft Mickey pretzels are also vegan, and they are delicious with mustard.
  • Check the carts for popsicle-type treats and fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • The Main Street Bakery has a nice selection of fruit and vegetable snacks as well.

Quick-service:

My favorite quick-service spot used to be Columbia Harbor House. The chili is vegan and you can get steamed broccoli to go with it! You can also get the Lighthouse sandwich made vegan by leaving off the broccoli slaw. However, I also have a shellfish allergy and was told on my last visit that there is potential for contamination of ALL foods sold in the restaurant so I have stopped eating there – a big disappointment for me.

Be Our Guest offers a hearty quinoa salad during their quick-service lunch which has good reviews.

Gaston’s Tavern has Sabra brand hummus and pretzel chips to dip, as well as raw vegetables which unfortunately come with a non-vegan dip. Makes a nice light lunch if you skip the other dip. LeFou’s Brew is also vegan!

Pecos Bill’s now has a vegetable and rice bowl, Cosmic Ray’s has a rather uninspired veggie burger, and I have heard that you can get vegan pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus. Generally, not much to get excited about!

 

Full-service:

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Be Our Guest wins for me here! The Seasonal Salad Trio was a wonderful appetizer with great flavour and variety, and the Ratatouille main course was also delicious. Definitely worth checking out for vegan eaters.

But after that, the choices are slim. Cinderella’s Royal Table serves a fairly plain vegetable and rice dish for vegans. Liberty Tree Tavern has a vegetable sandwich (with vegan mayo!) for lunch. However, if you go for supper, you will have to pay the full price ($32) even though you just get the sandwich and salad and other diners are having a big turkey dinner. So if you want to eat there, lunch is a much better value for your money. The Plaza restaurant can make their vegetable sandwich vegan for you. Crystal Palace is fun for the characters, but you’ll find very few vegan options on the buffet.

Vegan food can be tasty and flavorful, but I find these dishes are all pretty bland. On the other hand, if you are just trying to fill your tummy so you have the energy to do Space Mountain again, they’ll work.

Another option: nearby hotels

One of the good things about Magic Kingdom is that several hotels are quickly accessible. You can hop on a boat or the monorail and be at a resort in a short period of time, and that expands your eating options. Some of our favorites:

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Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness. Normally this buffet would not be too vegan-friendly, but the wonderful Chef TJ is working there now and making incredible multi-course meals for vegans who visit. You will leave absolutely stuffed and very happy!

Kona Café at the Polynesian. The Pan-Asian Noodle dish can be made vegan and is very tasty; we have also had the chefs make us special vegan dishes when asked. You can also buy Dole Whip at the Polynesian.

The Wave at the Contemporary has a Curry Vegetarian Stew, and Artist’s Point at Wilderness Lodge has a Vegan Lo Mein. I’ve also had some outstanding vegan meals at California Grill.

These options will give you meals with more flavor and spice than the run-of-the-mill veggie burgers.

So while I find the vegan meals at Magic Kingdom aren’t always as magical as they could be, you won’t go hungry while you’re there!

Jul 292015
 

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I knew I was in trouble when I staggered out of Epcot at the end of a long day. People say Epcot stands for “Every Person Comes Out Tired” and that certainly applied to me.

It does not, apparently, apply to active seven-year-old boys. Not only did my grandson Xavier skip happily towards the bus stop, when it was our turn to get on, he took a couple of steps back, ran and JUMPED over the steps onto the bus. The bus driver could only shake his head as I pulled myself up the steps behind him.

“Are you finding it a little tough to keep up with him?” he asked.

“Maybe a little…” I admitted.

I would have been ready to head to bed when we got back to Pop Century. But Xavier pointed out that we had not yet been swimming that day and we NEEDED to get into the pool. I briefly worried that I might fall asleep in the water and drown, but then realized Xavier’s antics would definitely keep me awake.

This was day two of our Grandma-grandson trip to Walt Disney World, and, yes, it was exhausting. But I promise you I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I am lucky enough to have six grandchildren (and two more on the way). When the oldest, Sebastian, was eight years old I took him on a trip to WDW, just the two of us. His two uncles were working in Le Cellier at the time and I thought he’d enjoy hanging out with them and seeing them at work. The trip was such a hit that a few years later, I took his sister Callista, who thoroughly enjoyed having an all-girls outing and focusing on princesses and fairies for a change (she has three brothers).

This year it was Xavier’s turn. This is also the year I will turn 60. I have a very sedentary job and nobody would describe me as “athletic.” Or even fit. But I can still have a wonderful time at WDW.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a “mature person” visiting my favorite spot.

  • Comfort beats fashion. I know, we all want to look good. But those adorable sandals with the cute little heels are not going to be your friend at the end of a day in Animal Kingdom. Us mature people can get cranky when our feet hurt.
  • Benches are your friend, and fortunately Disney has lots of them. Walt wouldn’t have put so many in his parks if he didn’t want us to use them, now would he? If you don’t see an actual bench, look for concrete walls to sit on. Plenty of those, too.
  • Make FastPass+ reservations and give yourself plenty of time to get to each of them. Let’s face it, you’re not going to win the race at rope drop to be first in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But here’s the good news – you don’t have to! Book yourself a FastPass time from the comfort of your home weeks in advance, and then just stroll over at your own speed when it’s time.

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  • Consider a sit-down meal in the middle of the day. Like most people our age, you’ve probably developed a real appreciation for good food (as opposed to fast food). And you probably have an even bigger appreciation for air conditioning on a hot day and a chance to rest those tired feet. Make an ADR and you’ll get a relaxing hour or two enjoying lunch – and maybe even a hug from Mickey Mouse.
  • Check out the not-in-the-parks activities. Many are perfect for the older guest. Some examples: Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Tea Room Grand Floridian has all the elegance of a Victorian tea room, and your server will make you feel like a queen; the Segway Tour at Fort Wilderness is a less-tiring way of checking out the trails and you’ll learn some history and nature lore along the way; Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy Tour shows you the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the holiday décor at the resorts and parks.
  • Take lots of photos – or get Disney to take them for you. My memory, I’m not ashamed to admit, isn’t quite what it used to be. Photos help me remember the special moments of my trip when I get home. I try to take a picture of the front of each ride before we get on, as well as any shots of character interactions or fun moments on the ride. This helps me afterwards to recall what we did throughout the day.  I’ve found that if I’m alone or traveling with a grandchild, the CMs are usually more than willing to take photos of us. All I have to do is ask. You can also get PhotoPass photos and either purchase the whole CD or just the ones you want. I usually buy some of those, too.
  • Push yourself a little! Some of us – myself included – can get into a comfortable rut. WDW is a great place to try something new or just a bit more challenging, in a safe environment. I’m a bit nervous about heights, but I decided to try the Wild Africa Trek a couple of years ago, even though it meant walking along a rickety-looking bridge with some open-mouthed crocodiles underneath. With our guides and the other group members cheering me on, I made it across and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the tour.

Or just go with a seven-year-old boy. I promise that will push you into whole new levels!

I’ve read that Walt’s goal in creating Disneyland was to make a place that parents and children could enjoy together. I’d extend that another generation – it’s great for grandparents too. I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to see what it’s like for great-grandparents. But that’s still quite a few years away…

Jul 012015
 

By Roye Ann Morris

Disney Open Ticket Books copy

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!

Mar 252015
 

By Rikki Niblett

Get Frozen This Summer at Disney's Hollywood Studios

This summer at Walt Disney World, it’s gonna be so hot, it’s cool. How’s that? Well Walt Disney World is kicking off its Coolest Summer Ever this year, which means that once again, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will be able to see their favorite characters from Frozen at the Frozen Summer Fun LIVE event. The fun is scheduled to take place from June 17 through September 7.

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Last year was the first year this exciting event, so because of that, this year’s offerings have been tweaked just a little, but don’t you worry– it will still be just as fantastic as ever! (And I can promise you that you’ll hear the songs from the movie only a few thousand times during the day.)

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To start off the day’s activities, guests will be able to catch the mini-parade called the Frozen Royal Welcome. Here guests will be able to see a cavalcade roll through Hollywoodland, featuring the Royal Arendelle Flag Corps, skaters, skiers, ice cutters and more. The parade will lead off with Anna in a horse-drawn sleigh, Elsa will be seen on a beautiful ice palace float, plus Kristoff and Olaf will be there too! It’s a great little parade that will delight all ages, for sure!

Now for those of you who just can’t let it go…this year, there will actually be two parade stops along the route – one on Hollywood Blvd. and one along the route by Echo Lake. During the stops, everyone will be invited to join in in singing “Let It Go.” The parade will take place twice daily. Check the Times Guide for exact parade times.

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Last year brought us the extremely popular For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration show, and good news, the show is continuing…however, there will be one teeny, tiny change. The show will actually be moving into a new theater…the recently renamed Hyperion Theater. (Otherwise known as the former Superstar Television Theater, which previously housed the American Idol Experience.)

For those who haven’t yet seen the stage show, the Royal Historians of Arendelle share the story of Frozen through a comedic retelling, which includes lively sing-along portions. The show also features special appearances by Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff and it really is a cute experience. I was able to catch it on my last trip and thoroughly enjoyed it. (And I am not Frozen obsessed, but I don’t have Frozen Fatigue either. Though my hubby did enjoy the show too…so that’s a plus for it.) I actually laughed out loud in some parts and of course, had the urge to belt “Let It Go” with the rest of them! FastPass+ will be available for guests who want to experience this offering in its new location.

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Of course, every Disney event features some sort of specialty beverages and food. Guests will be able to enjoy many different Frozen-inspired dishes. In addition, there will be lots of merchandise, photo opportunities, Frozen decor and more!

On the main Event Stage, which will be similar to the temporary stage that’s been used in the past at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, (for those who don’t know, the Sorcerer’s Hat has been removed, and the stage was previously able to be seen directly in front of the Hat), guests will be able to experience a few unique offerings. First, there will be Olaf’s Summer Cool Down! I love Olaf and here, you’ll be able to catch him and some of his friends, like the Ambassador of Hollywoodland, up on stage to have a little fun “In Summer”. And as temperatures heat up, Olaf happily shares a burst from his personal snow cloud to cool things off.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Disney party without a DJ, so DJ Chill will be on hand at the Event Stage playing some sick beats. He will be joined by some of your favorite Disney characters too! Guests will even have the opportunity to be featured on the screen by utilizing a special hashtag! So get your selfie face ready!

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To end the evening, you knew there would have to be fireworks, right? The Frozen Fireworks will close out the night, as Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf come together at the Event Stage to help kick off the fantastic fireworks show that will be set to the music of Frozen. Oh and be on the lookout for snow flurries too! These fireworks are simply mind-blowing! You don’t want to miss them.

I did mention that there would be a few changes. Unfortunately, this year, there’s no Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post, which means no ice skating and no snow playground. That’s kind of a bummer, because that was a really unique aspect to last year’s event.

Also, if you want to meet Anna and Elsa, do know that the only way to do that is to head to the Magic Kingdom. The sisters are only meeting guests at the Princess Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland.

The Frozen Summer Fun LIVE event is a ton of fun, just like the name implies, and it is a can’t miss event for those of you with Frozen fans in the family! Will you be making sure to spend some time in Hollywoodland (otherwise known to us as Disney’s Hollywood Studios) to see your Frozen favorites? I certainly enjoyed experiencing it last year and I know I will be partaking in the cool excitement this year too!