What IS it about Walt Disney World?

Trying on Hats at WDWIf you’re a fan of Disney vacations and you visit the Mouse as often as you can, you understand me.  You’ll also totally understand what it’s like to have friends and coworkers completely puzzled by this passion for Disney.  Yes, I’m talking about that most annoying of questions we Disney fans are constantly asked – “You’re going AGAIN?” – that query holds genuine puzzlement, usually with a sprinkling of scorn or worse, pity – as if we’re too immature or unsophisticated to know how and where to vacation properly.  “You do know that Disney World’s for little kids, right?”  Non-Disney fans ask me (and you, I’m sure) why we keep going to the same place for vacation over and over, year in, year out.  I save my answer for the ones I think really, genuinely want to know.  I’ve thought about my response a lot and I’ve had a lot of practice explaining what it is that makes Disney vacations so special to me.  I’ll tell Mother/Daughter Moment at WDWyou what it is and maybe you’ll leave me a comment and let me know why YOU love Disney vacations too.

What IS it about Walt Disney World?

Let me start with a couple of quotes – they’re basically the foundation of what Walt Disney World has meant to me over the years…

“Over at our place, we’re sure of just one thing: everybody in the world was once a child. So in planning a new picture, we don’t think of grown-ups, and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us that maybe the world has made us forget and that maybe our pictures can help recall.”- Walt Disney

Waiting for Toy Story Midway Mania“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.” – Walt Disney

For me, that’s the major draw of Walt Disney World – remembering.  When I was a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up.  I dreamed of going to college, getting a good job, getting married one day…maybe having a couple of children of my own.  Over time, though, I think the pressures and responsibilities of becoming an adult and focusing on achieving your dreams can cause you to lose a part of yourself – that “original” person you once were before all that life happened to you.  When I’m at Walt Disney World, I rediscover that person – the first me.  The me that was more carefree, less full of the sense of responsibility that comes with being a grown-up.

I’m more patient, more interested in little details, more relaxed, and certainly…lighter, for Having fun at Old Key Westlack of a better word, when I’m on a Disney vacation.  I also think it gives my family a chance to get to know the original me a little bit more than they can at home when I’m worried about getting supper on the table, or whether washing whites or darks will have the biggest benefit for the immediate future.  At Walt Disney World, I totally let go of life’s troubles for a while – I’m not worried about how Joseph manages to make so many holes in his socks or how I’m going to help Megan pick out a new dress on my lunch hour and still make it back to the office to make a presentation on time.  We just have fun.  Together as a family, we are completely ourselves, being together, enjoying a wonderful, magical place.

In line at Disney“Dreams, ideas and plans not only are an escape, they give me purpose, a reason to hang on.” – Walt Disney

After every Disney vacation, we start planning the next one.  It may be far into the future, but we will be planning a way to return to the place that makes us so happy and holds some of our best memories.  We’ve got countdown calendars and when we’re having a bad day (bad week, heck – sometimes just a bad month), we use that future vacation as a reason to keep moving forward, solving problems, supporting each other, getting on with conquering whatever challenges come our way.

It’s become kind of rare for the four of us to be at home for supper these days, but when we have an evening together, we almost always do the same thing…At some point, one of us will silently raise their hand.  This is the “I’m going to Disney World” sign and, one at a time, as we notice what’s happening, we will each raise our hand.  Once we all have a hand raised, we carry1900 Park Fare - Meeting Pring Charming on as if nothing unusual has taken place – but we’ve each been reminded that no matter what’s happening today, we have something extraordinarily fun in our future.  We will all be returning to a place where we are uniquely happy, together.

“When you believe in a thing – believe in it all the way – implicitly and unquestionable.” – Walt Disney

I’d love to hear from you – What IS it about Walt Disney World?  What does it mean to you?

53 Days in Autumn – Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival

Epcot in SummerIn case you’re new here or have somehow missed the first 15 times I’ve made this announcement – I am going to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival for the first time this year!  I’m pretty stoked about it, too, as is my husband, Raymond.  See, we’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in September and this trip will be like a second honeymoon.  We’ve been dreaming, planning, and discussing visiting Walt Disney World during Food & Wine for a long time.  I love it when dreams come true, don’t you?

Food & Wine runs this year from September 19th to November 10th.  Raymond andView of World Showcase I will get to experience this special event for 7 days in October.  Mostly, we’ve always wanted to take advantage of all the limited-time food and beverage offerings – the ones everyone with an Epcot park ticket can enjoy at the special kiosks and booths set up for the event’s duration – all the food from different countries not normally represented in Epcot.  According to the Disney Food Blog, this year more than 25 marketplace booths will feature culinary samples from countries including Scotland, Brazil, Argentina and Chili (together in the Patagonia booth), Greece, Puerto Rico, and many more.  You’d think this would be enough, but I was thinking…

Epcot's France / Window DisplayA huge variety of special events within the main event are offered ranging from cooking demonstrations ($15 per person) to food and beverage pairings ($55) to cheese seminars ($79) to Parisian Breakfasts at Les Chefs de France ($39) and also a swanky sounding Italian White Truffle and Wine Pairing Dinner for a whopping $295 per person.  We’ve got only 4 ADRs (advance dining reservations) booked for the week and we’ve got tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party one evening.  That leaves plenty of time to book a couple of really special (romantic even) Food & Wine extra events for the two of us, right?

I’ve narrowed down the choices to a few things I thought we would enjoy that (sort of) fit into our budget and sound a little romantic.  Feel free to weigh in with comments and/or suggestions…Remember, we’ve never been to WDW for Food & Wine before and would welcome any tips and pointers you could offer.

So here’s what I was considering…

French Regional Lunch at Monsieur Paul ($135) – either the “Tour De France” version or the “Bordeaux, Cedric Villars, Les Domaines de Rothschild” session.  Either one will fit in our Epcot's France Pavilion / Monsieur Paulschedule.  They both begin at noon and end at 3:30 pm.  The Disney Food Blog describes this as “Have a four course lunch and learn about paired wines throughout the meal from a winery principle.”  That sounds suitably romantic to me…what do you think?

Another option I think we would like is either the Italian Food & Wine Pairings ($83) or the Italian Food & Beer Pairings ($76).  Both are held at Via Napoli which we’ve heard so many great things about, but have yet to try.  Either option, again, fits into our schedule – can go either Tuesday (beer) or Thursday (wine) from 1:30 – 3:30 pm.  How can we go wrong with Italian food and libations?

Epcot's Morocco Pavilion / Spice Road TableFinally, there are Food & Wine Pairings available at three other restaurants for $55 per person.  Choices include Tokyo Dining, Spice Road Table and Restaurant Marrakesh.  It’s been years since we’ve eaten in the Japan Pavilion and we’ve never eaten in Morocco.  We like to try new things, but I’m just not sure.  These are offered in the afternoon on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Advice is welcome!

Okay – Please!  If you’ve been to Food & Wine or even if you just have an opinion and want to weigh in – help me decide what extra special add-ons we need to make our first Food & Wine Festival experience the best it can be.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – If Indiana Jones Must Go

Scenery from Indiana Jones Epic Stunt SpectacularI am unusually acceptant of change – I mean, more than the average person.  I tend to be a change advocate, if you will, both in my personal and professional life.  Most of the time, I am perfectly fine with and in favor of change – I like new and different things.  Even learning to use new technology is pretty fun.  Let’s talk for a minute about changes at Walt Disney World specifically.  I was totally happy with losing Snow White’s Scary Adventure in favor of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  I might have been a tad less accepting of replacing Mr. Toad with Winnie the Pooh, but I got over it.  Let’s not mention the Snow White/Aurora/Fairytale Hall thing, okay?  (That’s the one time I can think of that I was completely opposed to change…best not get going on that again.)  The update to the hub in Magic Kingdom?  Bring it on!  Avatarland, ooops, sorry…Pandora over in Animal Kingdom?  Can’t WAIT!  If the Star Wars expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes place, I’ll be super excited for that, too.  I like Star Wars a lot.Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular / Golden Idol

What I might be sad over, though, is the rumored plan to close the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.  Now, I don’t know if I really believe that will happen – Disney did purchase the Indiana Jones franchise, right?  Maybe they’ll keep Indy around now, at least in some form or fashion.  I would be all in favor of an update to the stunt show since little, if anything, has changed about the it since its debute in 1989.  The premise of the show is great – it recreates iconic scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and explains how the stunts and special effects are created.  There’s action, humor, thrills, and explosions!  What more could you Indiana Jones and Golden Idolask for in a 30 minute show?  Plus, there’s that great theme song….it’s the best.

I was 16 In 1981 when Raiders of the Lost Ark opened in theaters.  Indiana Jones was part nerd (hello, college professor) and part superhero.  He was lovably imperfect while clever and strong enough to defeat the villainous Nazis and save both the girl and the treasure.  Hands down, Raiders was one of the best movies I’d ever seen in my short 16 years and I still count it among my all time favorite movies.  Our dog’s name is Henry Jones, Jr. in honor of Indy and his amazing feats of daring do.  I sure will be a little sad at Walt Disney WorlIndiana Jones in Disney's Hollywood Studiosd if Indiana Jones must go, but if that happens, I have faith it will be okay.  Afterall, I understand that Raiders doesn’t mean nearly as much to most folks as it does to me.

But what if….

What if Disney, now that they own the Indiana Jones franchise, reintroduced Indiana Jones in a new way?  What if, like Disney did with Marvel superheros, Indy gets reinvented into an updated, but equally lovable incarnation and haIndiana Jones' Whip / Studios' Back Lot Tours new adventures with awesome story lines?  Like a phoenix from the ashes, the Indiana Jones franchise under Disney’s guidance, could become epic once more (let’s face it, that crystal skull thing was an abomination) – appealing to an entire new generation of fans, thus securing at least some sort of presence in the Studios for many years to come?  Maybe there’s hope for Indy yet!!!

What do you think?  Could there be a future at Walt Disney World for Indiana Jones?

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

Walt Disney: One Man's Dream / Disney's Hollywood StudiosIf you haven’t done it before, next time you’re visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios and have about 30 minutes to spare – go see the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream exhibit.  If you’re a fan of all things Disney like I am – it’s an amazing experience and a prime opportunity to see and hear details about Walt Disney’s life and work.  It’s a great way to show children that Walt Disney is not just a brand or a company or a theme park – he was a real person – one who faced many hardships during his life and overcame them by refusing to give up on his dreams.

The exhibit, located in a sound stage on Mickey Avenue, begins with a treasure trove of Life-sized Walt Disney photo / Walt Disney: One Man's Dreammore than 400 artifacts from Walt Disney’s life.  Photos, vintage toys, props, costumes, sketches, and more are cleverly placed throughout the exhibit’s rooms.  There’s a lot to take in and the displays are each very interesting and unique.  You can see the special camera Walt used to film the very first cartoon with synchronized sound – Steamboat Willie.  You can see the special Oscars Walt Disney won for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  One of my favorite displays is of Walt Disney’s office as it was at Disney Studios in California.  I also love all the Mickey Mouse Club memorabilia.  As you meander through the rooms, you move forward in time, beginning with Walt Disney’s birth in Display wall in Walt Disney: One Man's Dream / Disney's Hollywood StudiosChicago and ending with models and dioramas of modern Disney theme park rides and attractions from around the world.

The experience ends with a 15 minute film and this, to me, is the best part!  In the movie, narrated by Julie Andrews, we get to see and hear Walt Disney as he describes his life in his own words.  Never-before-seen home movies allow us to get to know the passionate, happy man who made it his life’s mission to bring his own special brand of happiness to so many people around the world.  It’s no wonder Walt Disney’s name and legacy are still so important, playing an enormous role in our lives today.Walt Disney's Office Display in One Man's Dream

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream is a cool and quiet escape from the busy (and HOT) hustle and bustle of the Studios.  Tour the exhibits at your own pace and don’t miss the movie at the end which begins every 15 minutes throughout the day.  Oh, and if you’re a sappy sentimental cry baby like me, bring plenty of tissues.

Have you toured One Man’s Dream?  What was your favorite part of the exhibit?

Oswald Poster Mickey Mouse Club artifacts in One Man's Dream Castle Model in One Man's Dream The Walt Disney Theater inside One Man's Dream