Epcot meeting Minnie

Don’t Want To Visit Disney Parks? That’s Okay!

Recently I came across this article by a mom explaining why she and her husband wouldn’t be saving up to take their children to Disney World any time soon.  She made the following five points rationalizing that decision:

  1. “We don’t want our children to feel entitled to a Disney World vacation.”
  2. “We don’t want our children to view a trip to Disney World as the pinnacle event of their childhood.”
  3. “We don’t want to succumb to the pressures of a high consumerism culture.”
  4. “We don’t want to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  5. “We want our kids to explore the world more than Disney World.”

Don’t Want To Visit Disney Parks? That’s Okay!Disney Simba Magic Shot

Initially I had two thoughts:  First was (shallow, I know), “Fewer people in the parks, YAY!”.  After that, I had a deeper reaction…Why write the article at all?  If you, like me, took a few minutes to check out the many reader comments, this lady was highly criticized.  People got really ugly!  What made her put herself out there attracting such hateful words in the first place?  Unlike the article’s haters, I can understand how this mom might want other moms in the same boat to know they’re not alone in their desire to maybe not take their children on a Disney vacation now or ever.  If she’s genuinely afraid of inadvertently turning her children into entitled materialistic jerks, she needs to stick to her guns.  She knows her family best.Disney's Castaway Cay Walkway

As I’m safely on the other side of child rearing, I have a different perspective than many of the article’s harsh critics.  I didn’t feel judged by the author and I’m 100% positive a trip to Disney World was not the pinnacle event of our offspring’s childhoods.  They had amazing personal accomplishments that challenged them physically and mentally.  Things that required dedication and hard work that made them (and us) proud and developed strong character.  Things that had nothing to do with family vacations.  Vacations were for de-stressing, reconnecting, and having tons of fun.Disney Cruise Line in Alaska with Teens

Visit Disney Parks (if you want to)!

Now that Megan and Joseph are adults, I can tell you that vacationing at Walt Disney World did not turn them into materialistic victims of a “high consumerism culture”.  Their Disney vacations have made them hungry to keep exploring the world, experiencing new adventures, and facing challenges.  They also learned the value of saving and budgeting for travel.  AND they had fun, their parents had fun, and we have many happy family memories that will last forever.Disney's Hollywood Studios Meeting Muppets

Through the years, I never felt we were trying to “keep up with the Joneses” – most of our friends and neighbors were not Disney travelers.  We were the oddballs (until I found the Disney fan community, you guys are the BEST!).  We live very simply, grow our own veggies, drive the same vehicles for 10 years or more, and value hard work.

When the kids were growing up, we did without things like video games, a trampoline, a backyard pool, etc. in favor of saving money for travel.  Collectibles like Pokémon cards and Beanie Babies were sadly a firm “no” in our household.  Disney travel was our absolute favorite, so we let Disney show us the world via cultural experiences in Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line visiting countries like Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, and Norway.  Also, we had enormous amounts of fun.Segway tour of CopenhagenDisney Magic South of France

I am completely excited for the article’s writer who will be spending her savings on a trip to Costa Rica with her family.  I admire their commitment to serving the less fortunate and know first hand the value of teaching children about other cultures and languages.  One thing that struck me about the article was the point the author makes about how going to Disney World may indicate someone would do so to “conform to societal pressure”.  Character meal with Genie

Is it true?  Do you guys take Disney vacations because of guilt?  Does the pressure (if it exists) make you think your kids will be maladjusted if you don’t take them to Disney World?  Will they have unresolved childhood issues?  Feel deprived and unloved?  I fell in love with Walt Disney World as a newlywed having never had the chance to visit as a child.  I turned out pretty well and never felt slighted by parents who chose to take me to Sea World (among other places) instead.  We started taking our children to Disney World simply because we ourselves love it there.Expedition Everest

If you think about it, societal pressure on Disney fans is often exceptionally strong.  We frequent Disney vacationers take a lot of flack from coworkers, family, and friends that do not understand what the draw is…How could we possibly want to return to Disney World or Disneyland?  Raise your hand if you’ve gotten the eye-roll accompanied by, “What? AGAIN?” on more than one occasion.Memory Maker Photo in Disney's Hollywood Studios

One last comment (because I can’t help myself) – The article’s author believes, “This culture is one that demands we spend money on this toy and that gadget and this “magical” trip. We don’t want to give into that pressure.”  I say, part of healthy childhood play should include plenty of time to pretend, play make-believe, and dream about being a veterinarian, a hero, a princess, a circus performer, a builder, a policeman, a dancer, a teacher, a banker, or even an Imagineer.  Indulging in these playtime fantasies in no way supports a materialistic, consumerism culture.  If you want to buy or make toys and costumes that support healthy play, don’t over think it.  You’ll be fine and so will your kids.

Now it’s your turn!  What say you?  Do you find Disney vacations detrimental to healthy childhood development?  Do you favor certain other types of travel?  If you’ve taken your children on a Disney vacation, was it the highlight of their entire childhood?  Did it make them feel entitled?  Are they spoiled or materialistic because of Disney travel?  Less apt to give to their community?  I’m biased and I’d really like to hear your side.

Disney Dining – Trattoria al Forno

Honestly, the newest Italian eatery at Disney’s Boardwalk, Trattoria al Forno, was never on our radar.  We love the Boardwalk to be sure, but we usually visit for dinner at Flying Fish or as I’m running down the actual boardwalk during a runDisney event.  Even when the Trattoria was Kouzzina, it never occurred to us to eat there.  Too many dining choices, too little time!

All of that changed when I was making plans for our most recent visit to Disney World (last December).  I wanted to see the Candlelight Processional and I didn’t want to wait in a long, LONG line only to find out that all the seats were taken.  We needed a dining package!  I was surprised to find that Trattoria al Forno was a choice for the dining package and that breakfast was an option.  SCORE!  We could sleep in, head to the Boardwalk, try out this previously unnoticed restaurant, spend most of the day in Disney Springs and arrive in Epcot just ahead of the Candlelight Processional.  To me, breakfast wasn’t a risk and not a substantial investment to get preferred seating for the Processional during Christmas week.

We were very pleased with the entire experience!  The atmosphere and décor are fantastic.  The breakfast menu is unique and the service was fine.  Shorthanded on the morning we were there, the restaurant’s manager jumped in to serve coffee and chat up the patrons.  Clearly out of his element, we appreciated his willingness to pitch in.  We were in no hurry and didn’t mind sipping Mimosas (I ate the orange slice before I took a picture…oops) while we waited for our food.  This ended up being a welcome respite from rushing around, dealing with Christmas crowds.  Raymond had the Breakfast Calzones, I had the Poached Eggs (with sausage over polenta) and Joseph had the Scrambled Eggs (with sausage and potatoes) we shared a  big bowl of fresh fruit.  We were all satisfied and thought the Italian-inspired menu items combined with traditional picky-eater-pleasing choices meant there was something for everyone.  We would definitely return again!

In early February, Disney World announced that a Trattoria al Forno character dining experience will soon be available!  This sounds like a wonderful option and excellent alternative to Akershus in Norway (a popular Disney Princess meal).  This new offering will allow guests to meet their favorite Disney couples!  Different from other character dining options and convenient to Epcot, this new experience will definitely put Trattoria al Forno on many people’s to-try lists.  If it has fixed pricing and takes only one table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan, all the better – this should be a big success!

Rumor Alert!  I heard that today (February 23, 2017) is the first day to make ADRs for this experience, so if you’re headed to Walt Disney World this summer and are interested in dining with beloved Disney couples (Like Rapunzel and Flynn & Ariel and Eric), you might want to get busy on the reservations.  If you are able to book this new Character Dining Experience, please let me know the details!

Must Be WDW Epcot Festival Fever

Festival of the Arts?  Flower and Garden?  Food & Wine?  Choices abound!  If you’re a fan of Epcot festivals, you now have more choices than ever!

Must Be WDW Epcot Festival Fever

I’ve had a great time following along with friends via social media during Epcot’s inaugural Festival of the Arts.  I’ll confess, I’ve also been Goofy-hat-green with envy.  This brand new festival runs Fridays through Mondays only from January 13th to February 20th this year (2017).  I hate that we couldn’t be there!  What a cool idea full of truly unique experiences!  Packed with art in many forms from Broadway performances to living statues to artists’ workshops and, of course, culinary arts.  What would an Epcot festival be without the food?  Several attendees I know have gone so far as to say Festival of the Arts may now be their most favorite festival.  Certainly this will become an annual event and I’m working hard on figuring out how I’m going to get there for at least one festival weekend next year.Epcot Food and Wine Festival Food

I’ve got Epcot Festival Fever.  Here’s how I know…I’ve managed to make sure I’ll be at Walt Disney World during both Flower and Garden and Food and Wine this year.  If I can pull off a visit during next year’s Festival of the Arts, it’ll be the festival trifecta!  For a non-local, I think that qualifies me as a true festival fan.

What’s the draw for us?Minnie Mouse Topiary 

Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival (March 1-May 29, 2017) – It’s springtime, the flowers are blooming and Epcot goes all out with music, topiaries, special seminars and yes, FOOD.  I’m particularly excited about this year’s lineup of offerings at the festival’s outdoor kitchens.  If you’re into gardening (we are!), there’s a lot to love including seminars and informational experiences to help you make the most of your green (or in my case, not so green) thumb.  Timed just right, the weather for most of the festival isn’t too hot and most schools are not yet out for the summer.  While our favorite time to take in Flower and Garden has been mid to late May, we’ll be visiting in April this year.Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival (August 31-November 13, 2017) – Yes, it’s extremely crowded at times and has a reputation for being a bit rowdy on the weekends, but Food and Wine can also be incredibly fun.  Raymond and I love the special food and wine pairing events offered during the festival.  Enjoying a long, leisurely lunch sampling tasty international flavors while learning about regional wines specific to the host pavilion is worth the splurge for wine lovers like us.  We like to spend our time at the festival early in the day rather than at night.  The craft beers and specialty food booths are great!  The weather in October and November is usually fantastic.Experiencing Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

We’ve found Epcot’s festival seasons to be an extra special time to visit Disney World.  Sharing tables with other visitors and getting to meet fellow festival fans is part of the fun.  Planning which booths and seminars are must-dos while leaving ample time for soaking up the extras allows us to make the most of these very special times of the year.

Are you a festival fan?  Which Epcot festival is your favorite?  Are you planning to be at Disney World during Flower and Garden or Food and Wine this year?

Disney World News! Good and Sad.

In recent days, tons of announcements have been pouring out from official Disney sites.  Rumors abound from unofficial sources.  Many of you, like me, have been on an emotional roller coaster.  Let’s discuss…

Disney World News!  Good and Sad.

Rivers of Light – Finally, it’s happening!  The ups and downs of this on-again, off-again nighttime spectacular have been uncharacteristically dramatic.  The attraction was part of this week’s Disney Social Media Moms conference events with pictures and video allowed (unlike previous previews).  Having watched this video (spoiler!), I’m probably not going to rush out and schedule FastPasses or a Dining Package for our next trip.  The show looks beautiful, but I’m okay with waiting until later in the year to see it.Disney World News - World of Pandora

World of Pandora – Officially opening on May 27th!  It’s been years (and years) in the making…I sure hope this controversial new Animal Kingdom land lives up to the hype.  While not overjoyed, I’m okay with the theme and think Pandora is in keeping with the park’s emphasis on the importance of conservation, but when “Avatarland” was first announced, it was hotly debated.  Many fans were angry and disappointed that a much-anticipated Animal Kingdom expansion would not be based on mystical/mythical creatures as had been originally intended for the park.  I’m hoping there’s something here for everyone/every age to enjoy.

Wishes – It’s been around for 15 years and has become a much-loved family vacation tradition for many fans.  While I will be sad to see it go simply because of the nostalgia, I’ve opted to watch it from afar for the past several Disney World visits.  I’m ready for a new show!  “Happily Ever After” will debut May 12, 2017.Starring Rolls Cafe / Disney's Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls – Okay, this one hurts.  Starring Rolls closed with virtually no notice on February 4th.  I’m sure the space is badly needed for a rumored expansion to the Brown Derby lounge, but this closure puts a big hole in the middle of our traditional Studios touring plan.  Yes, I’ll get over it, but I’m not happy about it.  I want breakfast at an umbrella table so I can people-watch and relax between rides on Tower of Terror and Star Tours.  I better still be able to find a Butterfinger cupcake when I want one.

Star Wars Land – Days ago Disney announced a projected 2019 opening for this large expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

From the Disney Parks Blog:  “As we’ve shared, the Star Wars-themed lands are the largest-ever, single-themed land expansions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. At each location, guests will be transported to a never-before-seen planet – a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space – where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.” 

I love Star Wars and have been a fan since the very beginning (I’m old, I know).  I’ve been impressed with the already existing Star Wars areas of the park and am 100% certain Disney Imagineering is up to the task of making the expansion every bit as great as fans of this franchise are expecting.

What bit of recent Disney news are you most exited about?  Are you unhappy with any of the upcoming changes?