Rise and Shine at Walt Disney World

Early Morning at Disney's Grand FloridianWhen you’re on vacation do you like to sleep in?  Are you a night owl?  Do you stay up into the wee hours squeezing all the enjoyment you can into every day?  It’s okay to expect a little rest and relaxation when you’re taking a break from the rest of the world, but WAIT!  At Walt Disney World, there are some things that are worth waking up for!  And I don’t mean sleep late and get to them when you’re ready.  No, I mean get up early – set that alarm, request that wakeup call – whatever it takes to pry yourself out of that comfy hotel bed and start the day in a special way!

Five Reasons to Rise and Shine at Walt Disney World

1. The Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom – It’s magical!  But you’ve got to get there mighty Welcome Show at Magic Kingdomearly to get a good viewing spot.  At about 10 minutes before the park’s official opening time, there’s a wonderful welcome for waiting guests.  Disney characters and Main Street Citizens are among the welcoming party.  It’s cute, it’s special, and it’s EARLY!  Get up in plenty of time to be at the park at least 30 minutes prior to opening (rope-drop) – if not sooner.

2. A Character Breakfast – If you choose to book a breakfast at someplace like the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace, Animal Kingdom’s Tusker House, Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine – you can enjoy some pretty hearty breakfast fare while visiting with some of your Meeting Minnie at Chef Mickey'sfavorite characters.  Booking an early breakfast means you’ll get in the park before the crowds and will be well fortified to hit the ground running! (All character dining experiences can be found here.)

3. Rope-Drop – If for no other reason than to maximize the number of rides and attractions you can experience, arrive at your favorite park entrance before it opens at least a couple of times on your vacation.  If you’re staying on property consider hitting morning Extra Magic Hours when available (early entrance for resort guests).  If you can’t make it that early, get to a park about 30 minutes before it opens (without the Extra Magic Hour) and prepare to make the most of that less crowded time of the day.  Booking FastPasses?  Save them for a little later in the morning or even early afternoon!Rhino on Kilimanjaro Safari

4. Kilimanjaro Safari – I know, it’s just one attraction, but I’m telling you, if you love animals and want to see them at their most alert and active, you should really try to experience Kilimanjaro Safari at least one time first thing in the morning.  Have your camera ready!  I’m particularly fond of the elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, okapi, wildebeest, crocodiles, well…you get the idea.

5. A Florida Sunrise – Think I’m crazy?  Try it and see.  The coolest, most peaceful part of the day is a wonderful experience – especially if the little ones are still asleep!  Grab a cup of coffee and Morning on the balcony at Old Key Westfind a place to enjoy the sights and sounds of your resort before it becomes hot and crowded.  If your room has a balcony, sit outside in your pajamas!  If you enjoy walking or running, there’s no better time of the day to get out there and get moving.

What’s your favorite way to start the day at Walt Disney World?


Disney Collectibles – No Dwarf Left Behind

1950's Vinyl Doc from Snow WhiteDon’t ask me how we ended up with such a wide array and volume of items in our (mostly Joseph’s) Disneyana collection.  I adore the lunch boxes, comic books, and record albums.  The books, watches, and mugs – yes, I totally get why we have all of those.  I understand the attraction of every single lovingly curated item…except one.

Several years ago, it seems, a well-worn, somewhat faded and tired lone figure made its way into the collection.  Still bearing his antique store price tag, this bespectacled gentleman seems to have joined our menagerie for a solid $4.  He seems a bit lost, a tad lonely, and a lot dirty but was once a part of something really special.  As it turns out, our little vinyl Doc figurine was actually manufactured in the late 1950’s and, predictably, was part of a complete set of 8 characters.  (See the original set here.)  I feel certain Doc took up residence in our home after Joseph spotted him in one of his favorite stores and, a lone Dwarf, without his friends, could not be left behind.Doc from Snow White 1950's Vinyl Figurine

Touting the features of purchasing this set of toys, the original box read, “Walt Disney’s Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. Entire Doll and Dwarfs Made of Miracle Vinyl. Washable Rooted Hair. Finest Details of Face, Hands, and Body Ever Achieved. Completely Unbreakable from Head to Toe.”

I pass by Doc on the curio shelf where he resides many times a day – usually without notice.  This weekend, though, I had Snow White on the brain and Doc caught my eye.  I decided he could use a little attention and at the same time, I could satisfy my curiosity about the little guy.

Eighty years ago in 1934, Walt Disney began his serious pursuit of bringing Snow White and the Snow White's Doc Figurine 1950'sSeven Dwarfs to animated life.  He was meticulous in his plans – scrutinizing every detail until he could achieve perfection.  For the first feature length animated film in movie history, Walt Disney was serious about making his dream a success – critics referred to the endeavor as “Disney’s Folly”.  They would be surprised by Mr. Disney’s achievement.  The movie premiered to wildly receptive audiences and is today regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made.

Back to our little guy.  In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Doc’s animated character, voiced by veteran actor Ray Atwell (1878-1962), was scripted to be the leader of the Dwarfs – self-important, yet somewhat bumbling.  He turned out to be an adorable, much loved persona who, thanks to a little research, now holds a special status among his curio cabinet companions in our home.

Do you collect any Disney toys or collectibles?  What’s your favorite item?  1950's Doc Doll

A Disney Cruise Tale – Spain Without Spanish

Barcelona's Sagrada FamiliaSpain Without Spanish – Joseph Green

“The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain was designed by architect Antoni Gaudi in 1882. It stands fifty feet tall at its tallest point, the central spire of Jesus Christ. The Sagrada Familia is also covered in some of the most beautiful carvings one would ever hope to see,” said the short, pale woman leading the tour. “Blah. Blah. Blah,” is all I heard through the roaring crowd of sweaty tourists craning to get a glimpse of the cathedral. Now that was all good and well, but by the time I looked upon the face of that beautiful cathedral, I had been awake for well over forty-eight hours. I looked at my friends, and by the look on their jet-lagged faces, I knew they shared my grief. Don’t get me wrong the cathedral was absolutely stunning! I had never seen something so beautiful in my life, but at this point all I wanted was lunch. What was the best part? I had no idea how to order lunch. I, regretfully, did not think Spanish was important to learn in high school. Now I am in Spain with a horde of grumpy tourists and no way to communicate.

In 2012 I was given the privilege of choosing a destination of my choice for my senior trip.The Heart of Barcelona  My family, being avid Disney vacationers, gave me no other choice but to choose a destination provided by Disney. My mother read me a list of possible cruise destinations for 2013, and after a little consideration I chose a seven-day cruise through the Mediterranean. The cruise departed from Barcelona, Spain and included stops in France and Italy. My mother had taken French in high school and college and spoke it well enough to get by. Mom had also recently started teaching herself Italian in preparation for the cruise. It seemed as though my trip would turn out to be quite lovely! We would fly from Atlanta to Barcelona, hardly having to wait at the airport, and board the ship promptly. That is until my parents made the choice to spend two days in Airport on the way to BarcelonaBarcelona to do some sightseeing. No one in my family spoke, or had taken any classes that taught the Spanish language, except for me. So who do you think they expected to communicate to the locals in Spain? You guessed it, me.

Bill Gates once said, “I give the most difficult jobs to the laziest people because I know they will find the simplest way to complete them.” Although I passed Spanish with an A, the online program teaching us had a slightly faulty teaching design. The “lazy people,” or as we called them, “gifted slackers,” found a way to complete the percentage of work we were asked to complete without doing any work at all. If one were to log on to this program and choose a speaking assignment without plugging in a microphone, one would find that the program itself would complete their work. Nearly the entire 2013 graduating class of Riverfield Academy passed Spanish I and Spanish II by doing absolutely nothing. We thought we were so smart. Unbeknownst to my parents, I could not speak one bit of Spanish. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, I was actually going to need to speak Spanish.

August of 2013 finally came. After months of preparations, and constant haggling, courtesy ofSpain from the Air my mother, we were on our way. Approximately eleven hours and roughly 25,000 miles later, we landed in Barcelona. Early morning Barcelona was stunning from the airplane window. An orange and pink sunrise cast over the mountains broke through crests and painted the seaside city. I couldn’t wait to step foot on the ground, and experience the view firsthand. Sadly, my excitement was diminished by the hours of airport hell I had to endure. We had planned on seeing the Sagrada Familia as early as possible in a hope to avoid the crowds, but it was already 11:00 and we hadn’t even checked into the hotel.

Buildings in BarcelonaAfter a short break in my hotel room, I met my family in the hall and we decided to walk to the Cathedral. I enjoyed seeing the historic city during the walk; the pastel buildings with intricate balconies and moldings. It felt good to stand after such a long flight. As we wove our way through mazes of crowds, the smell of pastries and pastas filled the air. The tempting smells would mean my demise. Sure enough, as we approached the cathedral, my only thought was, “food.” Apparently my family felt the same because after our tour it was my time to shine. My mother turned to me and said, “I’m hungry. Everyone else is hungry. Let’s get something to eat!” My stomach dropped. They were all expecting me to order, and I did not know how.

We walked back toward the hotel. Along the way, my mother or father would ask, “What Exploring Barcelonaabout here? This place looks good.” I would respond with, “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m fine with anything.” That bought me time. The group, being too tired and grumpy to come to a consensus, would not choose a restaurant to eat. This did not bother me at all! The more time we killed arguing about food, the more time I got to hide the fact that I didn’t know how to speak Spanish. After an hour of listening to my stomach growl and seeing food pass right before my eyes, not even I could handle it. It was time to man-up and deal with situation at hand! Though running and hiding seemed rather appealing as well.

Barcelona SelfieWe sat down outside of a corner-side restaurant. Locals walked in and out carrying food, their faces satisfied with their order. I looked at my family. They were sweaty and worn out from walking. I knew they must be starving. As I stood there, feeling regret for not taking Spanish more seriously, a thought crossed my mind. “What if, instead of telling my parents I couldn’t order food, I do what I’m supposed to do? Ask this guy if he speaks English!” A burst of energy flowed through me. If the man working the counter spoke English, there would be no need for my family to know that I don’t know Spanish. If he didn’t, not only would I embarrass myself in front of the locals, but I would also have to explain to my family that I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I balled my fists, swallowed what little pride I had left, and marched into the restaurant.

The man working the counter looked at me and said, “hola.” I immediately felt stupid and Lunch at a cafe in Barcelonaintimidated as I muttered, “hola,” back to him. Nervously, I looked him in the eye and said, “Engles?” He responded, “Engles? Si!” I buried my face in my hands and thought, “Oh, God. If this guy really spoke English he would’ve said yes, not si!” My thoughts were interrupted when the man corrected himself to say, “Ah! I mean yes!” Upon hearing those words, my jaw dropped. Relief flowed over me in the form of a tall, tan Spanish worker with a strange accent. I smiled and said, “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get my family.”

Through lunch I contemplated my actions. I may not have taken the best approach by not La Rambla, Barcelonatelling my parents I didn’t know Spanish, but I realized something. I could navigate this city if I needed to. I could be an ordinary, adult, American tourist. Simply asking that man if he spoke English gave me the confidence I needed to speak with others. In that moment, I realized that I had become literate in the subject of tourism.

Disney Pirates I’d Love to Meet

Captain Jack Sparrow Photo Op on Castaway CayAvast me hearties!  We be settin’ sail on a mighty adventure.  Hop-to ye scallywags, hoist the mizzenmast and swab the deck – It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Park yer dungbie and grab some grog, landlubber.  Arright, Matey, let’s parley!

Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!  In honor of this most auspicious occasion….

Here are Five Disney Pirates I’d Love to Meet (and why):

1. Captain Hector Barbossa – Oh, sure, Jack Sparrow is quick-witted and charming, but if I actually got to choose a pirate to meet from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, it would be Barbossa, without a doubt.  He’s edgy, learned, appreciates the finer things in life and has a certain mystery about him that makes me want to spend some time in his company and find out what makes him tick.  What was his childhood like?  What made him into a seemingly greedy and ruthless salty dog?  For real, I’d take meeting Geoffrey Rush over Johnny Depp any day.

2 and 3. Captain Hook (both of them!)Emma and Hook OUAT

  • Peter Pan’s Nemesis, James Hook (voiced by Hans Conried) – Even though he’s a cartoon, I love him!  Childish, spoiled, paranoid, and manipulative – what’s not to love about that?  He’s got a great sense of style and some pretty impressive facial hair.
  • Killian Jones (played by Colin O’Donoghue)  – Once Upon a Time’s dark, yet vulnerable hottie.  Easy on the eyes with a lovely accent, this Hook has been making viewers swoon since he appeared for the first time in Season Two.  Now that we know his past, he’s all the more lovable and I’m sure you’re with me in hoping that he and Emma will work out their differences – or at least give into their mutual attraction.  Finally.

4. Blackbeard from 1968’s Blackbeard’s Ghost – Played by Peter Ustinov, Blackbeard is cursed upon his death to wander in limbo.  The only way for him to move on is to perform a good deed.  If you haven’t seen this film, you probably won’t understand how Blackbeard made the list, but hey, my list.  It’s Peter Ustinov.

Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea5. Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (James Mason)- I know he seems ruthless, but I’d love to tour the Nautilus and see all of Nemo’s inventions.  Plus, he had such flair and a really fine beard.  When he wasn’t being diabolical, I bet he was a heck of a great host.  Esmeralda, his pet sea lion, would be pretty awesome to meet as well!  Remember the ride at Walt Disney World?  I rode it just one time in 1990.  Good times.

Who would you have on your list of favorite Disney pirates?