Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom – A Feast for the Senses

Welcome Show at Magic KingdomWhen I daydream about being at Walt Disney World – which I do often and for extended periods of time (Don’t you?) – Magic Kingdom is one of my favorite places to bring to mind.  It’s easy, thanks to my memories of those incredible, magical Disney details, to recall certain sounds, sights, smells, flavors and feelings.  What makes my family passionate about our favorite vacation destination is how easy it is to re-live (in our memories) our happiest Disney moments!

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom – A Feast for the Senses

Take all those favorite moments and add them together.  It’s easy to imagine myself in each of my favorite Magic Kingdom locations.  Here’s what’s going on in my mind:

The cool, humid air inside the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean – Often a welcome respite from the Florida sun, the smooth feel of the plastic seat when I board the boat, the smell (OH, that smell!) of the water as the deep, eerie voice warns, “Dead men tell no tales“.   Then I can see, perfectly in my mind, all the best (to me) moments of that attraction!  The dog with the jail key and the pirates behind bars whistling and coaxing him, the pirate on the bridge with his dirty food and hairy leg, so many great details!  “We wants the redhead!”IMG_4466

See how easy it is?  Engage all your senses in your memories and it’s the next best thing to being there!  Let me get you going with a few more iconic Magic Kingdom moments, categorized by sense involved!RM-Magic-Kingdom-Autumn

Sight – Main Street U.S.A.’s colors, signs, window decorations…the motion of the crowd and the Main Street Vehicles against the backdrop of Cinderella Castle.  Imagine the glint of light reflecting off the castle’s turrets or the details that are lit up in the queue for Space Mountain – oh, wait! How about Space Mountain itself – the exterior is an awesome sight.  As is the sheer magic of Big Thunder Mountain!!!RM-Space-Mountain-Sign

Sound – The Dapper Dans, Casey’s Corner piano player, the screams and booming whoosh of the Splash Mountain logs plunging into the briar patch!  Do you know that weird clicking sound in the first part of Haunted Mansion?  I love that sound!  How about the radio voice in the queue for Jungle Cruise?  Wonderful!  Doesn’t Jiminy Cricket’s voice make you SO happy during Wishes?  I also adore (beyond a reasonable amount) the prospector’s voice on Big Thunder – “…hang onto them hats and glasses, cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” The Red Rock of Big Thunder Mountain

Touch – My kids have always made fun of me for my need to touch store merchandise as I shop.  I can’t help it – how things feel is part of the experience!  Take the seats on The PeopleMover – not only are they a beautiful blue, they feel great!  I also love the smoothness of those clam mobiles in Under the Sea – Voyage of the Little Mermaid in Fantasyland.  Have you ever noticed the contrast between the felt part and the ears on a classic Earhat?  Part of what makes a churro a great snack is the crunch when you bite into it!  Same with the outside of a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar.RM-Churro

Taste – Doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Magic Kingdom popcorn, Dole Whip, Citrus Swirl, churro, ice cream, turkey leg, Mickey pretzel or hotdog – everyone has their favorite Disney foods and Magic Kingdom offers plenty of the good stuff!  Personal favorite – the sweet and spicy chicken waffle at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square.RM-Sweet-&-Spicy-Chicken-Waffle-Sandwich

Smell – I’ve already mentioned the water smell in Pirates, but how about that delicious smell on Main Street? The exhaust from the Tomorrowland Speedway? The pies in Mickey’s PhilharMagic?  What are your favorite scents in Magic Kingdom?

Hopefully by now you’ve got the hang of this total Magic-Kingdom-memory-by-senses thing and are completely immersed in happy memories!  Now it’s your turn!  What special things make your pixie-dusted vacation memories special?   




7 Elements of a Great Disney Vacation

RM-BalloonsFor our family, after so many years of Disney vacations, there are certain aspects…particular elements I’ve identified that make each trip fantastic and unique.  So many things are the same – which is what brings us back, right?  Favorite rides, beloved snacks, c’mon! The pre-show dialogue for Soarin’ or MuppetVision3D, the upside-down singing ‘possums on Splash Mountain or hearing “We Wants the Redhead” on Pirates or even the smell of Rome burning on Spaceship Earth are all awesome and have each become an expected treasure on every trip!  Today I’m talking about the DIFFERENCES that are important.  Gee, this is harder to explain than I thought it would be.

There are very identifiable somethings on each and every Disney vacation that make a trip memorable.  If our vacations were all exactly the same, it would be hard for us to distinguish one trip from another – see where I’m going with this?  Every Disney vacation is memorable for a particular list of reasons – I’ve thought long and hard about this!  Here are the…

7 Elements of a Great Disney VacationRM-Fiesta-Donald

1. Characters – Because he’s my favorite, I’ll use Donald for this example.  On one trip to Disney World a few years back, Raymond and I ditched the kids allowed Megan and Joseph some time on their own one morning.  In Magic Kingdom, Raymond and I ran into Frontierland Donald and were able to have our picture taken with him – I remember how tiny he was and how I had to lean down to hug him.  During this year’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend, I met Fiesta Donald at the Mexican Pavilion in Epcot.  He was particularly funny and made ma laugh a lot.  And let’s not forget the Donald interaction that made me a fan for life.  All the same character – but each interaction was completely different and made unique memories for each vacation.

Cast Member in Norway Pavilion2. Cast Members – Some of them are generic – pleasant, but generally unmemorable.  I’m talking about the extra-special, Pixie-Dust-specialists that make your day, or even your entire trip, extra Disney-ish.  I talked about the critical importance of Cast Members in this post and I stand firm by my assessment – Disney Cast Members are crucial in making each vacation magical and memorable.

3. The Perfect Souvenir – Lots of times, it’s a single Disney pin trade that we remember because we found a particular pin we’d been hunting for.  Maybe it’s several pins – like the Orange Bird collection I started in 2012 and completed in 2014.  We fondly remember the Disney cruise we were on when we bought Remy for our kitchen.  Every time someone compliments my watch I think about our first Food & Wine Festival trip last year for our anniversary.  See?  Inexpensive or a splurge – the perfect souvenir can set one Disney vacation apart from another in your mind.

4. A Particularly Memorable Meal or Snack (or two or three) – Because it’s such an importantRM-Magic-Kingdom-Parade-Watching-1996 tradition to sit down together and relax at the end of the day, our family tends to remember particular table service dinners the most (Flying Fish comes to mind as one of the best memories).  Food and fun combos make me recall certain moments so clearly – having Mickey bars in Animal Kingdom just after getting completely soaked on Kali River Rapids.  Enjoying some Casey’s Corner fare while waiting for the parade on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom – I remember it so well and that was 19 years ago!

5. Magical Details – There are always new discoveries to be made!  Hidden Mickeys, footprints in the walkways in Animal Kingdom, the windows on Main Street USA or in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, interactive queues…too many to name, but finding new and interesting, funny or clever Disney touches makes us happy – AND makes great vacation memories.

6. Live Entertainment – On a Disney cruise, on the Boardwalk, around Epcot’s World Showcase,Epcot's Voices of Liberty parades, musicians, comedians, magicians…For us, finding these unique and wonderful entertainers makes our vacations extra memorable.  I will remember the details of the first time I heard the Voices of Liberty forever.

7. A Hilarious Happening…that will later become an inside joke.  Megan’s face when she found out SHE was the Rebel Spy!  Joseph “getting engaged” to Drizella at 1900 Park Fare.  That snake in the China pavilion at Epcot…all these and dozens more unexpected, unplanned and perfectly wonderful moments are precious – like souvenirs in our memories that set each Disney vacation apart from the rest.

I really want to know!  What elements for a great Disney vacation are on your list? 

My Disney Best of 2014

Memory Maker Photo in Disney's Hollywood StudiosWhat a great year this has been!  I’d been looking forward to 2014 and it did not disappoint.  I can hardly believe it’s almost over!  Two trips to Walt Disney World – one of them a second honeymoon – and a full year of blogging about my love for all things Disney made for a great big bunch of fun!  Just in the last few weeks, even more exciting things have happened.  I could gush about the blessings of 2014 forever, but I want you guys to hang in with me all the way to the end of the list, so I’ll narrow my happy moments down to ten of the very best!

My Disney Best of 2014

10. Best Disney Recipe at Home – I had trying a couple of recipes on this year’s Disney New Year’s Resolutions list.  Hands down, those Maui Potatoes (formerly of ‘Ohana fame) were the most delicious Disney delicacy produced in my kitchen with my own little hands.'Ohana Cheesy Potatoes in Process 1

9. Most Popular Reviews – I wrote blog posts about a wide variety of topics, but by far the most popular of all those posts were the reviews of Disney’s Memory Maker.  We totally blew it on the first go (review here), but gave it another chance after we learned some important lessons and totally got our money’s worth on the second try.Character Meet-and-Greet with Sully

8. Most Relaxing Disney Moment – It was a tremendous, extravagant splurge, but worth every penny – the massage for two in the Senses Spa at the Grand Floridian.RM-Grand-Floridian-Senses-Sign

7. Best Disney Meal – This is TOUGH!  Raymond and I enjoyed Citricos (Grand Floridian) more than I can say, but because Megan and Joseph were with us for this incredible dining experience, I’m going to have to say the Flying Fish (Boardwalk) takes the top spot in this category.  The atmosphere, the food, and the service (Bob!) were all impeccable.  We couldn’t have had a better time anywhere on or off Disney property.Flying Fish Cafe Artisanal Cheeses

6. Best Disney Purchases – I bought some limited edition t-shirts and some great new pins and they were all pretty darn special, but my best Disney purchases this year were the new Christmas ornaments Raymond and I picked out together at Disney’s Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney.  We had a great time choosing just the right mementos of our vacation then enjoyed the memories those ornaments brought to mind as we decorated our tree.Haunted Mansion Mickey Ornament

5. Best Disney Snack – I’m only making this a category because I threw myself into Disney snack consumption this year with gusto!  I’m still reeling over the number of snacks I purchased and consumed in the name of research.  It’s no wonder I gained a few extra pounds!  The winner has to be the Croissant Donut (a.k.a. Cronut) from Epcot’s Refreshment Port.  It’s the perfect snack food…but not for sharing.IMG_3812

4. Best New Disney Endeavor: Hosting a New Podcast – If you haven’t heard, The Disney Exchange is a brand new Disney podcast.  Episodes 1 and 2 are available from all your favorite podcast sources.  Listen to me.  Really, go download an episode and listen to me and my buddies Nick and Dave while we debate, argue, laugh, and joke our way through discussions of our favorite Disney topics.  With over 80 years of combined Disney travel experience between the three of us, sooner or later we’re bound to say something useful to someone somewhere.  In the mean time, I am having a blast!TheDisneyExchangeLogo

3. Priceless Family Vacation Moments – It’s pretty challenging to coordinate schedules and get the four of us on vacation together, but we pulled it off in 2014 (and will do it one more time in 2015).  Those of you with small children will wonder if Disney vacations lose their magic when your kids grow up and I’m happy to tell you that in our family at least, Disney vacations have just gotten more fun.  I savored every moment of our May vacation, but enjoyed the evening meals we shared together the most.  Being together in the place where we’ve had so much fun through the years and created so many happy memories – looking across the table at our children and seeing the fun, happy, productive, well-adjusted adults they’ve become was indescribably special.Meg and Joe at Disney's Hollywood Studios

2. Best Disney-Induced Euphoria – Feeling Like a Kid Again – Even though I was about to turn 50 and Raymond had just turned 60, when the two of us were at Disney World in October, we were kids again.  We didn’t have to be anything to anyone, we just were.  Relaxed, go-with-the-flow, joking around, trying new things, meeting new people, doing what we wanted, when we wanted, soaking up the Disney magic and the joy of each other’s company.  It’s good to be married to your best friend – especially one who loves Disney as much as you do!Magic Shot at MNSSHP

1. Best Disney Gift – New Friends – I’ve said it many times this year in many different ways, but the Disney fan community is just amazing.  I’ve met some of the nicest, funniest, most caring people you could possibly imagine.  If I could change anything about this year, I would have used pixie dust to bring us all together at Disney World so I could meet everyone face to face!  I was lucky enough to meet Nick and Barbie (Disney Musings) and Jane and Heather (fellow Disney Divas) and a couple of dozen other fantastic folks, but there are scores of friends yet to meet!  Hello 2015!!!RM-Barbie-Nick-Lisa

What’s on your list?  What were your best Disney moments of 2014?

Walt Disney World – My First Visit

My First WDW VisitSo much has changed (and is changing all the time) at Walt Disney World since my first visit nearly 25 years ago.  I though I’d share some random thoughts and memories from that very first trip so long ago – and how I feel about Walt Disney World today.  In case I haven’t told you lately – Thanks for stopping here and reading this blog.  Your visit(s) mean a lot to me…more than you know.

Back BACK back…..a long (really long) time ago…

Growing up, we traveled a LOT.  I was the baby of the family; the youngest of four.  My dad worked for an airline, so we flew free and often.  Of all the places we went, I clearly remember visiting Sea World in Orlando in the early ’70’s – why we didn’t visit Walt Disney World, I’ll never know.  I’d always heard about it and vowed to get there someday!  I can vividly recall a neighborhood friend who was lucky enough to visit Orlando right after Walt Disney World opened – she described Haunted Mansion in such elaborate detail!  I was amazed that something like that could possibly exist.  When I eventually rode it for the first time, I could not believe how my memories of her stories matched the actual ride precisely.  Later, when my big brother got old enough to travel with his friends, he went to Walt Disney World and entertained me with explanations of how the tickets worked and that E-ticket rides were the best!

Flash forward to the late ’80’s….

Among the many things I fell in love with about Raymond when we met was that he had Tying the Knot 1989visited Walt Disney World several times, loved it, and couldn’t wait to go back.  This was clearly a relationship meant to be!  We met, dated for a few weeks, got engaged and were married less than 10 months after we met.  As a newlywed, happily in love, I wondered, “Now could I finally go to Disney World?”  Sort of.  We both had work committments that made taking time off for a real honeymoon impossible after our September wedding, so we planned a delayed trip for February.  We’d visit Walt Disney World and also take a cruise on The Big Red Boat (precurser to Disney having their own cruiseline).  Little did we know that by delaying the honeymoon, baby #1 would be on the way already by the time we went.

Raymond was so excited to show me everything he loved most about the Disney parks and hotels.  We stayed at the Grand Floridian, which we thought was heavenly.  I remember what a huge splurge it was and how luxurious those fluffy white robes were.  I felt so grown up!  I remember it rained while we were there and how happy we were in our ponchos running around Magic Kingdom.  Every single minute was magical.

Hats in Epcot's Mexico PavilionLife got really busy after that.  Six years went by before we found the means to make it back to Walt Disney World again – and by that time, the two of us had become four.  The memories of the first visit that seemed almost too good to be true were suddenly surpassed by new memories that were even better!  This Disney couple had become a Disney family!  Our children loved Walt Disney World every bit as much as we did and the die was cast – this was how we wanted to vacation!  And how we would, every chance we got.

Time flies when you’re having fun!  I can’t believe we just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  Our children are somehow, incredibly, 19 and 24!  There was no way we could let this occasion pass without just the right celebration.  In 8 short days, Raymond and I will embark on what I’ve been referring to as our “Walt Disney World, Bay Lake Tower, 25th Anniversary, Alone-at-Last Extravaganza”!  We know we are going to have a magical, wonderful time…we always do.

What do you remember most about your first Walt Disney World visit?

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your Disney vacations when the kids grow up, click here.