Top Ten Reasons to go to Walt Disney World in 2011!

January 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Italy, Magic Kingdom, Main Street, Mexico, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 1 Comment
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2011 will be a wonderful year to go to Walt Disney World (as if anyone REALLY needs an excuse to go to WDW)! There are so many wonderful things to do and see and experience! Here is a quick list of the top ten reasons you need to go to WDW this year!

  1. Let the Memories Begin– Disney’s new promotional campaign focuses on the memories made at the Disney parks. I know we all have them. And if we don’t, we will soon! This campaign allows us to see other’s magical memories and to share some of our own! Do you remember your 1st trip to WDW? Or what about your child’s? This campaign makes me smile simply because it is real. Those are real experiences and real reactions. And who knows? Maybe one of YOUR memories will wind up on one of Disney’s commercials or print ads. And maybe even displayed on Cinderella’s castle. For more information on this new campaign, click here.
  2. Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary– Come celebrate WDW’s 40th birthday at the Most Magical Place on Earth! Join in at all the parades, the rides, the shows… Come and see what has made Walt Disney World a must-see travel destination!
  3. Meet the Characters from Tangled– Did your little princess or prince love Rapunzel or Flynn Rider? Well, did you know you can meet them at the Magic Kingdom? That’s right! The beautiful princess and her prince now have their own Meet and Greet area in Fairytale Garden, near the castle side entrance to Fantasyland. Come to this new interactive Play and Greet!
  4. Duffy– So this may not be the MAIN reason, to go to Walt Disney World, but it’s a pretty fun thing to do while you’re here! For years, Duffy has been a popular character at Tokyo Disneyland. In October 2010, he arrived at Epcot for his own Meet and Greet! Duffy, for those of you who are wondering who I am talking about, is Mickey’s teddy bear. He’s a soft, cuddly bear with a “Hidden Mickey” on his face and paws. And of course, the Duffy merchandise abounds! You can get a seasonal Duffy bear, a HUGE Duffy bear, or a plain Duffy that you can dress anyway you want in one of the many Duffy outfits that are available.
  5. Two New Epcot Eateries– Via Napoli opened this past August in the Italy pavilion. This authentic Neapolitan pizzeria features wood-burning ovens and serves wonderful pizza, salads, sandwiches and more. La Hacienda de San Angel is an indoor-outdoor restaurant right on the lagoon that features authentic Mexican dishes. This is the first of Disney’s new concept dining establishments that acts as a quick service eatery for lunch and a table service eatery for dinner.
  6. Disney Channel Rocks– This new street show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios replaces the old High School Musical street performance. This new high energy show features songs that your tweens and teens will know all too well (and most parents will know them all too well, too). You’ll hear tunes from Hannah Montana, Sonny With a Chance, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, Shake it Up!, JONAS LA, Starstruck and more.  Some guests will even be invited on stage to dance!
  7. Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival– This fall-time event usually lasts from the beginning of October through the middle of November. You’ll be able to enjoy food and drinks from around the World. Besides the usual 11 pavilions, you will find food and wine kiosks from other countries as well such as Ireland, Belgium and South Korea, along with several others. You’ll also be able to enjoy regional entertainment. You can also take in the Eat to the Beat concert series, which highlights performers from years past! For more information on the Food and Wine Festival, click here.
  8. Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival– This event runs from March 2, 2011 through May 15, 2011 and showcases a colorful display of flowers, gardens, topiaries, entertainment and more. During the festival, you will find special entertainers from the 1960’s and 1970’s at the America Gardens Theatre during the Flower Power Concert Series. For more information on the Flower and Garden Festival, click here.
  9. Star Tours– This full-motion flight simulator is currently closed while it is being renovated and being made into a 3D attraction. BUT it will open in 2011 with all new 3D imagery, and any Star Wars fans in your family will be thrilled! New journeys and exciting destinations await. In the meantime, guests can enjoy shopping at Tatooian Traders and can watch (and maybe participate) in Jedi Training Academy, right by the attraction.
  10. The Feeling of Being a Kid Again– Many people go to WDW for their kids. But those of us who go more often know that the fun and excitement is not just for kids. The second I walk into Magic Kingdom, I revert to a kid again. I get more excited than my kids when I see the characters, and I cry when I see the castle for the first and last time of each trip. I remember growing up at Walt Disney World and watching it change through the years. I laugh and squeal on the rides, and I am just as excited as the kids to get a Mickey Bar! Plan that Disney trip in 2011, but don’t just do it for your kids- do it for you, too!

For more information or for a free no-obligation quote, contact us at www.magicalmousecapades.com!

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Meet Zanna! A True Disney Mom!

May 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Mom's Panel, Walt Disney World Resort | 1 Comment
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As you all know, I have a bit of an obession with all things Disney. While reaching out and finding others who share my passion, I found Suzannah DiMarzio, or Zanna (you can read her wonderful blog at www.zannaland.com) on Twitter. In the year that I have “known” Zanna, she has proven to be a wonderful person and friend. Her love of her family and of Disney come through with all tweets and blog posts. I am truly looking forward to finally meeting her in person this October during the 5K weekend.

This past September, Zanna began the process of applying for the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel. The Mom’s Panel is made up of several moms and dads who are true Disney fans. These people are the epitome of Disney experts. All of us on Twitter knew from the start that Zanna would be a perfect fit for the Mom’s Panel. We all cheered her on from the time they announced they were accepting applications, through her 2nd and 3rd round interviews and then finally when she made the announcement that she was selected to join this great group of people!

Read on for more information on Zanna and how she incorporates her love of Disney into her every day life, including being a mom and wife!

1.  Tell us about your childhood interest in Disney…

My dad grew up in Ocala Florida and his family still lived there, so I know visited Magic Kingdom at about 7 months old (so 1974) and again at around I think 4 or 5, but I don’t remember those visits at all. The trip that changed my life and made me a Disney fan was in the summer of 1983. My parents decided to drive down and make stops along the way over and back to various historic sites (Philadelphia Baltimore, Washington DC, Charleston and Savannah). In the middle, we spent some time at Disney World. I don’t remember how long, it must’ve been a week though. We stayed at the Lake Buena Vista Villas which were located in what is now the Saratoga Springs area. It was beyond amazing to me, at 9 to check into a townhouse-like ‘hotel’ and get our own golf cart and be able to drive to the then Lake Buena Vista Marketplace. I fell in love with EPCOT Center then too. We visited again with my older siblings the next year, and the year after that, my parents and I moved to Ocala. They opened a homemade ice cream shop (named after me) and we’d visit EPCOT almost every other Monday when the shop was closed. I can’t really describe the magic that exists at Walt Disney World, but I think it’s mostly the feeling of being able to leave the real world behind and let your imagination take over. 
 

2.  How did that change as you got older?

As I moved through 6th – 8th grade, it was well-known by family and friends that we were just always at Disney. We visited other areas in Florida, and we’d join my mom’s family when they would vacation for the summer in the southeast part of Maine, but Walt Disney World became home. We built up so many memories there that, to paraphrase a quote from fellow Moms Panelist Andi, it became a living book of treasured memories. 

In the middle of 8th grade, we moved to Lynchburg, VA. It was during that time that our multiple visits to Disney World stopped, but we did try to go once a year. It was then that we discovered Disney’s Beach Club resort. We fell in love. Being originally from New England and having the resort be so close to our favorite Epcot, it was just perfection.

In the middle of high school I moved back to Massachusetts with my mom. We didn’t get down there too often, but I did find several other Disney fans in school. As a result, the senior trip that usually took place in Caribbean each year, was split into two groups, because so many people wanted to go to Disney World instead. That was a fun trip too. After that, I didn’t get to the parks too much, but after trying out a few majors in a couple of colleges (Creative Writing for Children and Public Relations among them) I realized that what I really wanted to do was work for Disney as one of the people that booked the vacation packages. I then switched gears to a smaller school to get a degree in Travel and Tourism Management and use that to get a job in the travel company at Disney. The only problem was when I moved down there, the travel company had no openings. I took a job on Main Street, USA and hoped to transfer. However, in the meantime, I found a position in an actual travel agency and decided to start there. The company was just starting out, so I was able to move up quickly and become the leisure and cruise department manager. I left when I had my first son.

3. What is your family like?

I met my husband in high school. He played guitar and wanted to play music for the drama club, but got roped into acting because so few boys tried out for parts. He was a natural but it wasn’t until senior year that we started talking more and hanging out. I introduced him to musicals and he introduced me to Led Zeppelin. 😉 Luckily, he liked Disney too. His family had been when he was 13, but that was it. I remember knowing everything would be fine when we drove down to Disney during Spring Break of 1994 and stayed in All-Star Music together. We had a such a great time. I was able to convince him to move to Florida in 1995 with my mom and I and we all worked at Disney for a while. We were married in 1996 and had our reception at the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel. Our first son was born in 1999, our daughter in 2000 and our youngest son was born in 2008. My husband is a Systems Engineer and also writes tech books. Our oldest son is very into video games, usually on Xbox 360. He also loves to read and write. He has a killer sarcastic wit, which assures me daily that yes, he is mine. Our daughter is into gymnastics, swimming and loves helping with her baby brother. She detests pink much to my dismay, but she is still a princess in her own right. Our youngest son is a bundle of energy that keeps us laughing, smiling and warms our hearts daily. He is fearless and so far he shows all the signs of being a Disney fan too. My mom lives nearby and is a cruise agent. She likes to plan most of our family vacations to Disney and is very much like a fairy godmother to all of us. 

4.  Do they share your love of Disney?

Oh yes. They would live there if they could. My older two are at the age where they don’t like to admit they like it as much as they do, but they always find something new to make each visit special when we go. My oldest son in particular is very into finding Hidden Mickeys. They both collected pins for a while, but never got into the act of “trading” them. 😉 They now both love Vinylmation which has become a family activity (being obsessed with them).
 

5. How many days a year are you in the Disney parks?

This is something I really wish I’d kept track of, but sadly I never did. I’d love to know from day one exactly how many visits, including working there and being Florida residents, I’ve had. Before starting the blog and being chosen for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, we’d probably go once a month, with a couple of longer stays throughout the year for birthdays. Since I started blogging and connecting with people on twitter, there haven’t been too many weekends that I’m not in the Parks. It’s been a completely different experience visiting the Parks solo, or with friends vs. with family and I’m very lucky and grateful that I’m able to do both. 
 

6. What is your favorite Walt Disney World restaurant?

My answer seems to change every week when I do my Meet the Moms Panel series on ZannaLand and read their answers. Just when I think I have one favorite, I read their choice and think “ooh, that’s a good one too!” I really do love Citricos though and that’d probably be my top pick if I wanted a nice dinner out with my husband. California Grill would be next on that list. For the whole family, we love Japan’s Teppan Edo, Les Chefs de France, Germany’s Biergarten, Le Cellier, Kona Cafe…I really should stop. 😉

7. What is your favorite Walt Disney World Resort and why?

It really is hard for me to pick one, because I have 3 top favorites: Disney’s Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. I love them all for different reasons and would feel at home at any of them. Beach Club reminds me of New England and of course the pool there is just amazing. I love its convenient location too. Wilderness Lodge is just comfort defined. I feel so at home there and love the sights sounds and smells. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a similar feel, and I love that there are just so many areas to explore within the lobby alone. There is nothing that quite compares to waking up to zebra and giraffes grazing outside your window. For me, the resort has always been as much a part of the vacation as the Disney parks and other attractions. I love the relaxing feel you get as you leave the real world behind and make your Disney resort your home away from home.  

 

8. What is your favorite Walt Disney World attraction?

My two favorite attractions actually don’t exist anymore. The original Journey into Imagination and Horizons. I have such love for them because they represent a time when EPCOT Center was new and really made me love Walt Disney World. I thought the original Imagination ride was a complete work of art and it saddens me so much that whoever was in charge made the decision that it needed to change. It was a perfect representation of the different parts of imagination and things like the white room and the senses room and the science room were just amazing. I loved the photo at the end too, with no attempt to sell you a picture, it was just part of the magic of the experience.

Horizons was reminiscent of Carousel of Progress, which has always been a favorite too. I loved that there was a *story* to the attraction and the extras like the orange grove smell and the ‘choose your ending’ parts really made it unique. I understand that rides have to appeal to a broader audience and most people want action vs. story, but those two rides will always be my favorite for those reasons. I loved World of Motion too. I have most of the original EPCOT Center album memorized. 😉

Of existing rides, I love Soarin’. I wish there were about 5 more theatres so it wasn’t quite such a long wait for a short ride, but I still love it and think it’s a wonderful ride. I love Toy Story Mania! too and think it’s a great example of combining story with new ride technology. Outside of that, I’m a sucker for the classics; it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, the TTA (which will always be the Wedway People Mover to me). I love Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, but I’m always going to love the older, simpler attractions because of the history they have. 
 

9. What is your favorite Walt Disney World theme park and why?

Epcot. Or I should say EPCOT Center circa 1985. 😉 I still love the park despite the changes. I walk through that park and thousands of memories flood over me. I love all of the countries and how you can have a different experience every time you visit the park. Magic Kingdom I love because I worked there, so I have great memories of that park, plus so many with my children. I love the Studios because it was my dad’s favorite park, but I do miss the old Residential Street and original backstage tour and special effects tour. Animal Kingdom I will always love because it is a park of discovery and you can just explore and drink in the surroundings. So…I like them all for different reasons, but I think Epcot wins out by a little. 

10. Tell me about your decision to apply to the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel…

I hadn’t heard about the Moms Panel until the end of 2008, when the application process for the 2009 panel began. I believe it was in the allears.net newsletter that I saw a little blurb about it and thought, “oh, Disney? Moms? online? I can do that!” So I wrote out my answers in Word, pasted them into the little boxes, hit submit, and promptly forgot about it. Then in October I got an email about the Mickey Moms Club, realized that I didn’t make it and thought “aww.” but that was it. It wasn’t until starting to interact with other Disney fans on twitter and meeting some of the 08 and 09 moms there, that I felt like “wait, I HAVE to do this.” I’m sure the buzz online contributed to my obsession. I realized how much fun the panelists had with each other, and wanted to experience that in the context of helping others plan their Disney vacations, something that was really second nature to me. I knew with my experience as a visitor alone I could help, but combining that with my cast member experiences, my travel agent knowledge and my time online, I figured (and hoped) it would be a perfect fit.

Of course I found out during the application process that when you paste answers in, they can come across completely garbled and unreadable. So I wasn’t sure if my first attempt had been foiled because of that, or more likely, because I approached the first application like a resume, trying to “prove myself” worthy. The second time, I spoke from my heart and shared personal experiences vs. facts and figures. I’m not sure if that made a difference or not, but I’m of course extremely grateful that Disney saw something in me and I made it onto the panel. 

11. Can you describe the process of the Mom’s Panel?

Well, in the past, during the month of September, www.DisneyWorldMoms.com will have a link to apply to the WDW Moms Panel. On that page, you answer 3 questions in 100 words or less about you, your family, and your experience as a Disney fan. The questions vary slightly each year. I have no insight into *how* they choose people from the 1,000’s of applications they get, but I can only advise to put your passion into words. Don’t just say “I’m really passionate” show them how you are. With that many applications, they really have to weed through any spelling or grammar errors, so watch out for those. Just be yourself, and let the real you shine.

After that first cut, somewhere around 200 people advance to round 2, which is another set of three essay questions. Usually they are a little more in-depth and may ask for examples of your planning tips or skills, or what makes you unique and a good choice for the Panel. In the past, it’s usually been narrowed down to around 40 or so, but we aren’t sure how that went last year since there were double the amount of panelists added. Round 3 is a phone interview where you tell executive cast members about your experiences and why you feel you should be on the Panel. From there, the final Panel is chosen! It is an extremely exciting, nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience. It’s equally as much fun as it is ulcer-inducing. 😉

I know from speaking with a lot of people online, that sometimes it’s really hard to understand how the panelists are chosen and why some people with vast Disney knowledge or experience may get passed over. I have no answers for this because even after making the panel, we are not given any insight into how we were chosen or how future panelists will be chosen (and rightly so, it would taint the process if we knew). All I can say is that there are a LOT of people that love Disney. Disney loves and appreciates all their fans, and however they decide choose to select members of their panel, that decision should not diminish your love and passion for the Parks and Resorts. Keep spreading the magic and making memories, because that’s what it’s all about. 

12. What was one unexpected thing you discovered on the Mom’s Panel?

As a shy person in the real world (online is another story), I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in or be accepted by the rest of the panel. After all, how often do 21 (or 43 altogether) people actually have enough in common at first meeting to become friends? But the power of pixie dust is strong, and we all became instant friends. That in and of itself is such a powerful gift that I thank Disney for each day. There isn’t anyone on the panel that doesn’t want to help other people, and as much as it of course makes sense, it was an unexpected reality.

The other thing was just how addictive answering questions on DisneyWorldMoms.com can be. As my time approached to start answering questions, I became nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job or that I’d even feel overwhelmed by the ‘job’ part of being on the panel. It was just an instant fit and the only downside is that I don’t have enough hours in the day to answer ALL the questions I see on there. 
 

13. What is your favorite thing about the Mom’s Panel?

Without a doubt, being a part of such an amazing, diverse group of moms and dads. I’ve learned something from each of them and I’m so grateful to call them all “friend”. The cast members in charge of the panel and other aspects of Disney Parks are all wonderful too. It’s been such a treat to get an insider’s look at some areas of how things are run, and of course it leaves you with wanted to do more with Disney. In addition, the support on twitter and other places online for the panel in general has been overwhelming. There are so many people with such a great love and knowledge of Disney, it’s nice to know that we are all one big family online.

Knowing that you are helping people head on their way to a magical Disney vacation is a wonderful feeling too. It’s especially nice when you get people that liked a previous answer you gave and come back and ask you more questions personally. I had one mom ask me about 3 different questions about her trip and it was so cool to know I was helping her plan a great trip. 

14. What are your family’s thoughts on the Moms Panel?

My husband and mom think it’s amazing and are really proud of me. The big kids didn’t really get that it was a big deal, until they got *their* picture in the paper too. 😉 Now they think it’s pretty cool. They love meeting other Moms Panel kids but what’s funny is they think that *everyone* I meet in the Parks now is on the Moms Panel. 

15. How does Disney impact your role as a mom and a wife?

It’s definitely made me appreciate my family more, and made me take stock of ALL the memories we’ve experienced over the year that turn into Disney traditions that they will hopefully pass on to their children as well. It’s definitely made me want to visit the parks more and gain even more experience to share with others who ask questions on the Moms Panel, and readers of my blog.

Disney was such an important part of my childhood and for a long time I avoided ’embracing’ my love of Disney World because so many people I met just didn’t ‘get it’. Becoming involved in twitter and finding so many other people that felt the same love for Disney really helped me embrace my passion and find out how to share it with others and help them create wonderful memories too. I am really lucky to have such an amazing support system in my husband, mom, children and friends that allow me to pursue my dreams. I’m even luckier to have Disney be a major part of those dreams.

I’d like to thank Zanna for taking the time out of her busy life to answer my questions! You can find her on the Moms Panel site, www.zannaland.com or on Twitter.

Hitting Walt Disney World Solo!

February 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort | 3 Comments
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Me in front of Cinderella’s Castle

Recently, I had the chance to plan a solo Walt Disney World trip! Solo?!? Why on Earth would someone want to go the Most Magical Place on Earth all by themselves?  As someone who has always gone with family, I always wondered the same thing. As someone who has now experienced it solo, I can simply say DO IT!

My husband is a corporate pilot, and he was assigned an Orlando trip which was supposed to go from February 14-16. I was invited along! Great! Of course I’ll go! Well, as things typically go in the corporate aviation field go, plans changed. Our 2-night trip was cut back to 1 night. I began thinking, “what if I just stay an extra day and go explore?”. So I made the plans: got a Disney resort reservation, made a reservation for the Keys to the Kingdom tour and began to plan my ONE day at WDW by myself. Then plans changed again. Instead of arriving on Sunday, we would now be arriving on Friday night, and my husband would be leaving on Saturday evening. What to do? I had flight arrangements for Tuesday and my tour on Monday. After careful researching, I decided to stay on until Tuesday, giving me 2 FULL DAYS and 3 nights at Walt Disney World all by myself! What would I do?? The answer: ANYTHING I WANTED TO!

We arrived late Friday night and checked in at the beautiful Gaylord Palms Resort. We had an early Valentine’s Day dinner at  Old Hickory Steakhouse in the Gaylord Palms. What a wonderful place! If you ever are lucky enough to get to eat there, get the artisan macaroni and cheese! It’s delicious! We wandered around the hotel f or a bit, and then we decided it was off to bed as we were planning on waking up

Welcome Home!

and heading out! We awoke bright and early on Saturday to head to the Magic Kingdom! I felt like we were home! Nothing beats driving through the Walt Disney World Resort arch! We went straight to Jungle Cruise, Pirates and Big Thunder Mountain. It was so strange to be able to ride these sitting next to my husband and not my kids! Then we headed over to the Haunted Mansion, lunch at Columbia Harbour House, Buzz and Carousel of Progress. As we were getting on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, he received a text that signaled the end to his Magic Kingdom time! He had to head out to fly his boss home, leaving me alone on

Goofy in Frontierland!

Main Street USA during the Move It, Shake It Celebration. At first, I was so lonely, and I thought “What have I done?”. I saw all the smiling faces of the families around me, and it made me miss my family terribly! But then….I saw the tantrums. The meltdowns. The family arguments on where to go next, and I realized… I don’t have to deal with any of that!

I immediately headed over to Aloha Isle in Adventureland to get a Dole Whip Float. I sat down to enjoy it and watched the people go by!

My Dole Whip Float

 I walked around Magic Kingdom to take photos of whatever I wanted! It was extremely crowded due to the President’s Day Weekend, Daytona 500, cheerleading championship and more. I decided to head over to Wilderness Lodge to go take some resort pictures and enjoy a quick break. I jumped on the boat, and away I

Wilderness Lodge

went! I waited for the geyser to erupt (but quickly lost patience) so I went and wandered around. I bought an iced tea at Roaring Fork and sat down in one of the rocking chairs in front of the huge rock fireplace in the Wilderness Lodge lobby. It was cold out so the fireplace felt great!

I then hopped on the bus and headed over to Epcot! Crowds were an issue there, too- no more Fastpasses for Soarin’ and the wait was 120 minutes. I decided to try for Test Track in the Single Rider line, which said 20 minutes when I went in. By the time I sat in line for 30 minutes and heard the announcement that wait times would be longer than posted, I decided to head back out. When I walked out, the Single Rider line was up to 90 minutes! Whew!

Epcot

I walked over to World Showcase and began wondering through all of the pavilions. There were many stores I had never been in before because I had the kids with me, and they wanted to do their Kidcot stops! I took my time in each pavilion exploring and seeing what I

Italy Pavilion

may have missed before. Then I got hungry! I had no ADR that day so I decided to try my luck! I went to Tutto Italia, where I had never eaten before! I was able to get in with a minimal wait! I guess seating for 1 makes them feel sorry for you! I waited for about 5 minutes and then was seated! The food was great. The ambiance was very romantic (at least that’s what I gathered by watching others), and the service was great. I enjoyed listening to the Italian singers and just getting off of my feet for a bit! Then back out to World Showcase! I finished wandering through the pavilions and bought some gifts to bring home. Then I headed out the back entrance and walked over to the Boardwalk!

I had never been to the Boardwalk before, and I’m sorry I’ve missed it! I will definitely have to bring the family back! I have to say though that I am not a fan of the pool area. As many of you know, the Boardwalk pool has a

Boardwalk

 HUGE clown slide, and I HATE clowns! I strolled along the Boardwalk and went to the bakery where I ordered a Cheesecake Brownie- simply put, DELICIOUS. After walking around the resort for a little bit, I decided I was pretty dang tired so I hopped in a cab to head back to the Gaylord Palms!

Early Sunday, I woke up and rented a car so I could spend my Sunday exploring the Disney resorts! My first priority was breakfast! I headed over to the Polynesian Resort for my 10:20 ADR at Kona. Tonga Toast was

Tonga Toast from Kona!

calling my name! After stuffing myself with the banana-stuffed cinnamon-sugar rolled French Toast, I jumped on the monorail to the Grand Floridian Resort to explore! I had never been able to truly explore any of these resorts before! What a beautiful resort! I watched the crazy kids play in the pool, wishing I had mine with me (although it was way too cold for me to have allowed my kids to get in the water- call me an overprotective mom)! I walked to the far

Grand Floridian Resort

 end of the resort and enjoyed the site of  Magic Kingdom before me! I walked along the beach and walked through the great shops!

After riding the monorail back to my car at the Polynesian, I decided to head up to the Value Resorts. I had visited Pop Century before breakfast so I went over to the All-Star Resorts. I knew I had to make it to All-Star Movies to see the Toy Story section, as my 3-year old LOVES anything to do with Toy Story! What a cool place!

Toy Story section at All-Star Movies Resort

Then I was off to Animal Kingdom Lodge, Coronado Springs (simply beautiful), Port Orleans French Quarter (where I sat and enjoyed some beignets) and Port Orleans Riverside. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend time at the various resorts. I knew it was something I could never do with my kids. And how magical it was to be able to take it all in and watch the kids’ eyes light up when they realized that they were checking in to their hotels at WALT DISNEY WORLD! It brought tears to my eyes on several occasions! Being alone gives you a lot of time to think, and I was remembering vividly my kids’ first times at Walt Disney World- the excitement, the fatigue, the amazement. My daughter was 3 when we brought her for the first time. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge, and the look on her face when we walked into the majestic lobby was absolutely priceless.

Late in the afternoon, I headed over to Hollywood Studios to meet up with a Twitter friend, Maria. I enjoyed the

Maria and Me at Hollywood Studios

 Block Party Bash, and then I went off to meet Maria and her husband and four daughters. What a sweet family! They were off to spend time in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area. I decided to head the other way to take some more park photos. It was too crowded to ride my favorite ride, Toy Story Midway Mania, so I continued to just explore! I was wearing down after all those resorts so I then was off to try to get in to a table-service restaurant. They weren’t accepting walk-ins at Mama Melrose’s so I decided to head to another

Sci-Fi Diner

place I had never been to- Sci-Fi Drive-In. I was amazed when I was able to get a table- in one of the cars, nonetheless! What a fun experience! The kids around me were enthralled by being able to eat in a car and watch TV while they ate! I was hoping to catch Fantasmic, but with the crowds, I decided it was best to head out to check in to my new hotel- the Hilton at the Walt Disney World Resort!

I checked in and decided to head across the street to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping and exploring! I’ve never had the chance to wonder aimlessly at Downtown Disney before so I took the chance! I drove around for a while and finally found a parking space and then headed straight for World of Disney,

World of Disney

 my favorite store. Then I decided to indulge in a warm cookie fudge sundae from Ghiradelli (would have posted a picture but I ate it too fast). After my treat, I decided to head back to relax as I had an early Monday! It was a great Sunday, although I missed having my sweetheart with me on Valentine’s Day!

Monday came up fast! I was up early checking out of the Hilton and checking in at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Then I was off to do something I would never be able to do with my kids here- The Keys to the Kingdom Tour (you must be 16 to attend the tour).  My tour started at 9:00 so I arrived at Magic Kingdom

at a little after 8:00. I checked in for the tour and then walked around Main Street USA and enjoyed the

The Mayor on Main Street

emptiness! There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the castle without a massive crowd in front of it! I walked down Main Street and up through the castle and then slowly wandered back near the Main Street Train Station where I took in the pre-opening show with the Disney characters! As I waited for the tour began, I was lucky enough to have the characters walk right by and wave at me on their way backstage!

Then came time for the tour to start- this was the part of my trip I had been waiting for! I had a group of 16 people. Needless to say, I was the only one attending solo. Our tour guide was named Tracy, and she was excellent! We began by touring Main Street and discussing Walt’s idea for the park and most importantly, the story. We took in the windows on Main Street and discussed a few windows in particular. As we strolled down Main Street, we learned bits and pieces of Walt’s life and his relationship with his brother, Roy. We ended up at the Partners statue before we were on our way to Adventureland where we hopped on a Jungle Cruise boat! We didn’t get the normal Jungle Cruise speel. Instead, Tracy talked with us about Walt’s original thoughts for the attraction. The main thing being the fact that he actually wanted real animals along the banks, an idea the Roy rejected! But how interesting would that have been??

After the Jungle Cruise ride, we were on our way to Frontierland, where we finally got to go backstage! We were all responsible for making sure that our “travel buddies” made it each step of the way. Needless to say, it was easy keeping up with my travel buddy! We had to take an “oath” that we would not take any photos or videos while we were backstage. Then off we went! We first saw the backside of Splash Mountain and then were able to go into the warehouse where they keep the Spectromagic parade floats. It was very interesting to learn about how they position the floats and who gets to drive certain types of floats. We also were able to see Woody and Jessie before they become Woody and Jessie, if you know what I mean!

Next, we were off to Liberty Square, where we stopped to learn more about all of the details that went into Liberty Square, such as the 13 lanterns hanging in Liberty Tree.  Liberty Tree was even a great story- it broke in half when they were moving it to Liberty Square. After we spent our time in Liberty Tree, we had a great lunch at Columbia Harbour House, one of my favorites. I sat with Tracy, our tour guide, and a lovely couple who had gotten married only 2 days before! When we sat down for lunch, we received our special gift- our key to the kingdom (a key pin). After lunch, it was time for Haunted Mansion. We heard the “story” of Gracy Manor, and all of the rumors surrounding it. Then we went through the back entrance and gained quick access to the ride! I tried to locate some of the special things to look for (a headless Mickey, Jack Skellington and Sally), but I couldn’t find any of them!

Not long after that, we headed back up towards Main Street and down to the Utilidors! The Utilidors are a mystery to many people! And I can vouch for them saying, they are in fact long hallways. However, what is housed down there is simply amazing! It makes you wonder how many people truly realize they are on the second story when they are at Magic Kingdom! Tracy told us of the many benefits tat Disney offers their employees, and I have to say, that people who work at Disney are very lucky!

Rick, Amanda, me, James and Aurora

Once the tour was over, it was time to meet some more of my Twitter friends- Amanda, Rick, Aurora and her husband, James! What a great group of people! Amanda had a special pass that allowed us to get on Fastpass attractions right away! We met up at Space Mountain, where I took my 1st Space Mountain ride in 16 years (I know, a Disney-lover sin). I must confess that I am not a roller-coaster person, but Space Mountain is tame enough for me. We rode a few more rides and then met up with another Twitter friend, Debbie and her cute boys and headed to the Polynesian so we could have some dinner at Kona Cafe.

I then went back to Magic Kingdom so I could catch the 8:00 Wishes fireworks show, which I love! I

Wishes

 decided I couldn’t make it to Spectromagic (I had already been at Magic Kingdom for 12 hours) so I went back to take in my room at Caribbean Beach! I finally found my room in the Jamaica section, dropped off my bags and headed over to Old Port Royale for a drink and a snack! It was my last night at Disney!

I loved my Nemo-themed room and was excited to see the different Nemo characters on the comforter. I hopped into bed and watched what I wanted to- the Olympics!

Caribbean Beach Resort

My last morning there involved dropping off my rental car, checking out and waiting for Magical Express. After bringing the car back to the Gaylord Palms, I was back at Caribbean Beach Resort for a Mickey waffle and some bacon. I still had 4 hours before my bus to the airport came so I decided to catch the bus over to Downtown Disney for some last minute shopping. It was a chilly morning, but I had a nice time wondering through all of the shops and had a nice lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express. I was hoping to hit DisneyQuest, but it opened a little too late for me to have been able to make it back in time! After doing some more shopping, I was off to wait for my bus!

After a rather lengthy wait for my Magical Express bus (he was 20 minutes late) and some last-minute confusion, we were on our way to the airport! I had a wonderful experience at Walt Disney World, but I was ready to get home to my kids and my husband. It was finally time to board my flight, where I wound up sitting next to my high school dance instructor! Such a small world! She had been there with one of the local high schools for the cheerleading competition! Three hours later, I was in the airport and seeing my kids running to me saying “Mommy! Where are my presents?”! I knew I was home!

Looking back, this experience was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. I had a wonderful time, met some great people, did a lot of walking and had some relaxing quiet time! I would without a doubt do this again, and I would hands down recommend a solo Disney trip to any Disney fans out there.

Walt Disney World is so many things to me- magical, peaceful, happy memories. But above all, Walt Disney World is family. My once-in-a-lifetime experience was something that I will always cherish. I was able to see many things I had never gotten to see before, even after all my trips to the World! I enjoyed watching the happy looks on the families that were there and seeing the magic on the childrens’ faces. I remember seeing that on my kids, too. Without the support of my family, I would never have been able to take this trip- my husband for inviting me and then for supporting me when I said I wanted to go alone for 3 days, my kids for being excited for me, and my parents, for taking care of the kids while we were gone. So thank you to my family…I owe you. I had a fantastic time. And I missed you.

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Go there to read more great Disney posts.

My Family on a Previous Walt Disney World Trip!

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