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Friday, January 28, 2011

An Ordinary Girl's Infatuation with Disney World

Surely you’ve met me. The regular person, maybe even a little on the quiet side, who suddenly perks up at the mention of anything Disney? The one who can roll off the details of each park and resort almost as naturally as breathing? Maybe you’ve seen me and thought, “Wow! That chick has a problem requiring intervention. Or at least a cameo on ‘Strange Addictions’!” Or maybe, I just described you too!

I am always interested in the reactions of people when it comes to exploring Disney World. Some folks get all caught up in the crowds and the cost and how tired they get (somebody needs to tell them about FastPasses!). I feel terrible for those people, because, quite frankly, they aren’t doing Disney right. Just saying.
Now, I understand that I’m coming from a different place than a lot of people. I did grow up going to Disney World and occasionally Disneyland. I went at a young enough age that the magic was very real (still is) and I got all caught up in it. We mostly stayed at the Polynesian Resort where I loved to stroll along the grounds, listening and looking and being transported to the islands. To this day, every time I walk into the Great Ceremonial House, I wish they could bottle that fresh smell of plants and flowers and water. At least once on every trip you can find me standing there and breathing deep. This is not to say that if you are an adult going for the first time, you can’t enjoy Disney! On the contrary! You just need to be practical with your planning before you go, and completely impractical (dare I say childlike?) after you are there. Disney is a master of precise details and a feast for all senses! It has something for everyone!

Traveling as a young family

I get asked often what age is best to take your children. I reply “any age!” Although at different ages the experience will be different. I’m all about bringing up baby the Disney way. Getting the photos with Mickey and friends, riding Dumbo and the monorail and seeing all the colors, lights and movements through the eyes of a little one. Will your baby remember? No…but you will. Plus, your family will have the pictures to treasure always.
When the little tyke gets older and starts to enjoy Playhouse Disney, a whole new world opens up! Those kids get so excited! The squeals and the jumping are worth the trip right there! This, is when magic is at it’s best! Make sure you get back to the hotel for a nap mid day…toddlers and Wishes (Magic Kingdom fireworks) is a whole new experience when you see them reflected in your child’s eyes.

Traveling with older kids

Alright parents, this is when you can start to ride the big rides! Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Mt. Everest and the non-mountain, Rockin Roller Coaster!!!! You can take the kids and play all day at Disney Quest (an indoor, interactive theme park). Even the little kids enjoy the pools, but the older kids have more of an appreciation for the coolness factor of them. At this age, choosing a resort with an awesome swimming pool will make you just that much more excellent as a parent! Some of my favorites are: Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, The Nanea Volcano Pool at the Polynesian Resort, Doubloon Lagoon at Port Orleans French Quarter and Fuentes del Morro Fort at The Caribbean Beach Resort. Taking a day to just hang by the pool (a rum runner in your hand doesn’t hurt) and relax while your kids float and play, capped off with a dinner show like the hilarious Hoop-De-Doo Review located in Fort Wilderness or the tropical Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Resort is a perfect, no stress day with big kids! Speaking of swimming, this is also a perfect age to really jump into the water parks! Whether you are a daredevil or not, those places are full of family fun!
Oh, and if you are a camping family, Disney's Fort Wilderness resort and campground is chock full of ammenities and things to do.  The sites are nice and (important!) the comfort stations are some of the cleanest I've ever seen!  The kids will have a blast riding bikes, hanging out at the campfire and just being kids in the fresh air!

Traveling with Adults

Disney is just for kids? No way!!! It can be quite the romantic escape, actually. Let me lay it out for you…you and your beloved, strolling hand in hand through World Showcase in Epcot, glass of wine, a slow sunset sparkling on the lagoon. You stop and hear a band play, then meander through the shops in Morocco, taking in the scent of warm incense. You have a delicious dinner in one of Epcot’s fabulous restaurants, like Tutto Italia, Bistro de Paris or Le Cellier. Then go back to your room, feeling relaxed and utterly blissful; maybe even with a "True Love" gift basket awaiting your return. Some of the most romantic resorts, in my opinion, are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Port Orleans French Quarter, The Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian and Coronado Springs. You don’t have to be park commandos. Do whatever you wish, with your sweetie by your side.
There are some fabulous restaurants all over Disney Property. If it’s fireworks that make you feel inspired, make a reservation for show times at La Hacienda or Rose and Crown to see Illuminations. To view Wishes while you dine, California Grill, Narcoosees and Ohana all have nice views. In the mood for a truly out of this world experience?  Try the five star Victoria and Albert’s. It will cost you a pretty penny, but the food, service and atmosphere are impeccable.
You don't need to travel to NYC for good theatre. The shows around Disney are amazing, Broadway style events! Animal Kingdom is home to two out-of-this world experiences: The Lion King and Finding Nemo. They are both spectacular. At Hollywood Studios, Beauty and the Beast will capture your heart! Rising up from the West side of Downtown Disney, you will find a break from the shopping and dining in Cirque du Soliel’s La Nouba, which is a heart pounding, breathtaking spectacle!
Perhaps pure pampering is what you’re after (heck, who wouldn’t be?). There are several spas on Disney property…now that’s a vacation! If you are a budding PGA player, Disney has golf too (even the mini kind).
Still think Disney without kids is an outrageous idea? If you have to bring the children, but want to experience some romance anyway, there are child care options available. Do it up!

Traveling alone

What? Disney without anyone to share it with? Well, yeah. It’s pretty incredible actually. It affords you the opportunity to go strictly on your own pace. If you want to linger by the fountain in Italy and people watch, do it! Walking slowly, taking it all in, memorizing details and smells and music is one of my favorite things to do in Disney World. I love to be utterly and completely submersed in the magic. When I step onto Main Street in Magic Kingdom for the first time in a trip I love to stop and look around. The scent of the best popcorn on earth wafts up and greets me. The sound of the railroad and whistles of the ferry boat are a comfort. I meander slowly, reading the names on the windows of the buildings lining the street. Then I look up and see the castle, so familiar, yet always so stunning. I do this kind of thing in every park. I envision the imagineers who studied the places they recreate and do it with such accuracy…but with that wonderful touch of magic. I don’t know how they do it, but I sure do appreciate getting lost in it.

Disney World is at it’s best, when you allow yourself to experience it with all your senses. To me, it isn’t about the rides, although I do love them. It is so much more than that. It’s the way it makes me feel. Happy to be in the midst of such artistry and passion, seeing what I have come to love reflected back in my child’s face. The familiar and the new all rolled up into one. It’s the fullness when I step onto Main Street and say, “I’m actually here.”

XOXO,
Ami

P.S. If you are planning a Disney Vacation and need tips or advice, feel free to send me an email at

I’d be happy to help!ami@disney-goddess.com

8 comments:

  1. Yep, this is why you should've been chosen for the moms panel :::shaking head:::

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  2. Though I have never been to Disney (usually Dad to busy with business). I enjoy hearing and living through your wonderful experiences.

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  3. Thank you for the support, Donna! 2012 is a new year! :-)

    Lori, somehow, someway....we have to get you to Disney!

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  4. Brilliant post! Thoroughly enjoyed your encapsulation of Disney and the different touring options. Your last paragraph though, pretty much says it all for me, and it's something I try to explain to others who don't get it. Disney isn't just a theme park with neat rides and Mickey Mouse. It's SO MUCH MORE!

    I think many adults get trapped in the mentality of doing it for the kids, and fail to look deeper and see the real joy of the parks. There was a commercial that ran a few years ago, I think by Florida tourism, that showed adults turning into kids when they came to visit, and that's what it's really about. For me, I had to re-train myself to relax and enjoy vacations, and learn how to be a kid again. Disney allows me to do that so much easier than anywhere else I have been as an adult.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

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  5. Thank you so much for the glowing remarks! I am thrilled to hear these from a like-minded person. Disney is infectious and wonderfully there is no cure when you catch it!
    I remember that commercial well. It made me cry....then again, most Disney commercials do.

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