Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hoop De Doo

Oh, Hoop de Doop De Doo, I miss you.  I am really missing you now!  (Ok, my son is listening to Scooby Doo beside me on a DVD player!)  But none-the-less, I really miss the Hoop de Doo! 

If you have never seen this show, you really need to invest the cash to do so!  I will admit that I am always looking to save money so I waited to see this show when I had free dining.  The show is located at the Fort Wilderness Campground.  On my first visit to this show, I had not done enough research and was dramatically confused by the transportation.  So, here is the lowdown.  When traveling by Disney bus, guests first take the bus labeled Fort Wilderness Campground from the parks or Downtown Disney to the internal bus stop at the campground.  Next, the guest will take the bus headed to the Settlement Depot to the location of the Hoop de Doo, Pioneer Hall.  This is not really a fast process and guests should allow at least an hour.  NOTE that Disney buses do not travel from one resort to another, but rather parks and Downtown Disney to resorts.  Should the guest be coming from a resort, add the extra time to get to the park, then on to Fort Wilderness Campground.  If the guest is driving their own car, the use of the internal bus is still necessary.

I would also like to say that I have taken the boat from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness Campground.  Maybe it was the season of travel (April) or the time of day that I traveled to the Campground, but the travel time was well over 2 hours EACH way!  If the wait and travel time had not been so long on the boat travel, it could have been a good experience because once the boats docks, you are right at the Hoop de Doo with no need to take take an internal bus!

For my first show, I went with my mother and son.  We had a table that was located on the bottom floor in the back of the hall.  The seating was pretty good. 

We had a wonderful server that was both attentive and entertaining. He was even able to sweet-talk my son into sitting in his seat the ENTIRE show. (I say sweet-talk. He told him that he would glue him to the seat if he didn't sit there the entire time. At first, I was a bit flabbergasted at his words. But then when his words worked, I thought he was brilliant!  An entire meal without me pleading for him to stay seated!)

The show was interactive, entertaining and catchy.  I found myself attempting to sing along, but rather looking the fool because I didn't know the words;)  The food was excellent!  And what was funny was that I had read the menu at http://www.allears.net/din/hddcom.htm and was less than enthused. But somehow they make "cowboy beans" or country style baked beans that enter my dreams!  Bring me more beans, bring me more beans...  All of the food is all you can eat so loosen that belt!

This first trip to the Hoop was in September 2009.  Since that time, my son and I returned to see the show in November 2009.  While I had to pay for this show, I did not care one bit to fork over the money.  Better yet, this second show landed my family (son, Mother, Father and sister) on the front row touching the stage!  Being so close to the stage, the cast could not resist choosing my beautiful sister to be the dancing girl for the finale.  Watch my sister here and observe me screaming, "HIGHER"! 
I was not satisfied with her kicking style as she HAD taken many years of dance class including kick-line classes.  She later pointed out that she was inappropriately dressed to kick any higher!  My sister getting on stage was great to everyone, except my jealous son!  He was so upset that she was chosen and that he was not allowed on stage.  He actually cried the majority of her debut. 

In February 2010, I could not resist taking my husband to his first Hoop De Doo experience.  So, my husband, son and myself headed back to the Campground.  Again our table was located right behind the stage.  Quickly I could recognize that my son was on a mission.  He WOULD get on stage this time.  He began by lightly flirting with Dolly, one of the characters at the Doo.  Then when he was not certain that that was effective enough, he began waving to her during the show.  As he continued, she eventually started to wave back!  Yes, he was going to get his way!  So, when the finale selections rolled around Dolly came straight over to my son.  And off he went to get on stage.  Only 3 years old, not a scared or nervous bone to be had!  Here is his debut video. 

I must admit that watching him was hard to do.  I felt nervous for him and a bit apprehensive when he disappeared with strangers behind the stage curtains.  Then later it was hard to watch through watery eyes.  Following his debut, we received two photos of him working his magic onstage.  I keep one of those photos beside my chair and often marvel at how great a show it is and wonder when will I return...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Halloween Party Ready!

Last year I decided to travel to Walt Disney World specifically to attend the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  I had never attended any of the Disney parties and was a bit apprehensive due to the extra costs involved with attending.  I had already purchased an annual pass for the first time that year and had gotten information from Disney about the party in the Mickey Monitor, the circular mailed to all Annual Passholders.  The podcasts and discussion boards had made me interested in attending this party.  Once I realized that annual passholders were given a discount for the party tickets, I decided that this year was the year to attend my first party!

On the day of our party, my son, Mom and I decided that a nap was in order before heading to the park for the late night.  When we got to the party, Main Street was so well decorated a lot of time taking in the decorations and photographing everything.  Since we had arrived late, we decided to go ahead and find our location for the parade.  We situated ourselves right outside of the Fire Hall.  The location was great in that there were not that many people blocking our view.  When the parade began, I quickly saw that I was not standing in the right place... the grand entrance of the Headless Horseman lasted only seconds from our vantage point and was quick to disappear with no decent photos!  Boo. (not the Halloween kind either)  When the actual parade floats got to our location and the music for the Mickey's "Boo-to-you" Halloween Parade began, I quickly forgot about my needed Headless Horseman photo and settled into singing the "Boo-to-you" song.  The parade is phenomenal.  I am definitely not a parade person and I wanted this particular parade to begin again as soon as it ended!  As for that "Boo-to-you" song, I still hum it while I work...

After seeing the parade, we watched the Happy HalloWishes fireworks display.  While I remember enjoying them, nothing about them have "sparked" my memory of anything of any interest.  Not to say that they were not great, I just cannot remember anything that stood out over the Wishes fireworks.

Now that we felt that we had done all of the scheduled entertainment offerings, we headed around the parks to the 13 Trick-or-Treat locations scattered all over the park.  These locations varied from a bucket manned by a cast member with loads of candy to elaborate sites where characters posed with guests and included a candy give away.  The path from Mickey's Toontown Fair to Tomorrowland was our favorite!  You need to travel there to see how cool this was;)

Before heading down this path, we spent some time waiting in a very long line to get our face painted.  During the party, the face painting is FREE!  There were several different designs available fitting for both boys and girls.  I personally chose this design:

My son decided on a pluto face painting.  After being painted, the paint takes a few minutes to dry.  During that few minutes, the paint slightly itches.  My son, being only 3, could no resist touching the paint and itching his face.  The fact that we were visiting the party in late September did not help either as it was still pretty hot.  Needless to say, his pluto look quickly looked like a puddle of colors instead of a playful dog. 

I have fondly remembered this Party and have already purchased the tickets to attend this year.  I am attending the Party this year.  I plan on getting a new spot to watch the fireworks for that wanted shot of the Headless Horseman.  I have been told that in front of the Hall of Presidents is a great location.  We will be going days before Halloween this year, hoping that the temperature will be more "Halloween-like".  Now, I only need to decide if I am going to wear a costume this year.  Any suggestions?!?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Relaxations found in EPCOT

I have always been on a mission. I want to get in the parks, run to my favorite attraction, see it to its fullest and then get to my next favorite attraction on my list. I love touring this way! I get to see so many things in less time. But really, at some point during the day I seem to hit a wall. I lose my stride, so to speak. And when touring EPCOT, this always seems to happen just at the right time, as I enter the Japan pavilion! As I am coming around the World Showcase Lagoon, I grab a latte in Italy at the kiosk, then continue my walk around to Japan (only visiting The American Adventure every now and again).

As I enter Japan, I love to stand and admire the architecture and beauty provided by the lush bamboo, Japanese maples, koi ponds and monkey puzzle trees. The colors used in the architecture make me slow down dramatically and wish I could travel to Japan one day. As I write this and look over the photo of the Pagoda, I realize that my bedroom furnishings are all done in these exact colors. Wow, my love for Disney is sneaking into my psyche!

And if I walk up to Japan at the right time, I see the Matsuriza Taiko drummers. I find this to be a great way to be relaxingly entertained. (Unlike the show in China where the performers make me nervous and anxious!)

The koi pond is absolutely peaceful. And if you look really carefully, you will find a Hidden Mickey there!

Too bad it cannot be seen from this photo! But maybe looking for this will give you an excite to visit EPCOT soon;)

I thoroughly enjoy the Mitsukoshi department store. They have so many items that I have never seen before each time I return. Of course, there are regular favorites from my childhood in their Hello Kitty selection! And do not miss the back of the store! There are all sorts of nice dishware for both suishi lovers and children. I have entire sets of plates and cups from Japan for my son. He loves eating on them and specifically asks for them at mealtime! Oh, and the candy is not to be missed, with a variety that far surpasses other “normal” candy stores! Check it out on your next trip!

After shopping, I head into the Japan Tin Toy Display. While I rarely see many changes or updates to this exhibit, I am always fascinated by these rare toys and wish I could play with them just long enough to understand what each of these antiques “do”. Does that tin toy walk, throw a ball or just look so adorable?!? Check that exhibit out! It really is worth the time! About the time I finish the Tin Toys Display, my latte has properly caffeinated me and I am feeling ready to explore the rest of the World Showcase!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Annual Pass Promotion

As mentioned, I am thinking about going to Disney World in September.  To help me better make up my mind on this notion, I decided to take the time this morning to search room costs.  I have an annual pass (AP) that I renewed over the phone about a month ago.  I was told that I could pick this ticket up at will call in order to save the cost of shipping, $5.  I was also told that I was eligible to receive an extra 3 months on my AP renewal.   I knew my next trip would be in October 2010, and my renewal date was July 2010, so the three months was really a wash. However, I want to purchase my son, age 4, an annual pass too in October and this way our renewal dates will fall in the same month.  Perfect!  (Lord help my wallet!)

So when I went to Disneyworld.com and signed in the passholder portion of the website I was told that my AP had expired and must add in my new AP number to gain access.  Not having the pass, I decided to call ticketing at 407 566 4985 to see what could be done. I was told that I needed to have the pass in hand to update the passholder portion and gain the access I needed.  Further, she asked if I was aware that my AP needed to be used before August 31 in order to receive the 3 months extension!  I had not been told that when I renewed my AP a month ago, even after telling the cast member that I was excited about the extension and the approximate date of AP pickup!  This new cast member told me I should write to wdw.guest.communications@disneyworld.com to see if I could be accommodated.  Fingers crossed!  I will let you know how this turns out!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

September visit?

Disney World in September?  I have still not made up my mind if I am going to go there in September.  And when I say September, I mean the 7-11... soon! 

My son and I are already going October 25 - 30 for the Mickey's Not so Scary.  We are so excited to visit the park for the Halloween season again this year.  I hope that this year's parade view will include a much better spot for viewing the parade than we had last year.  My view last year of the Headless Horseman lasted about 3 seconds!  And it was such an awesome display, I hated to only have 3 seconds to have seen it!  This year, I plan on being poised in the best place as I have heard that in front of the Hall of Presidents is that location.  We will see! 
As for the September trip or maybe non-trip, I have the tickets to fly there.  I really want to go on both occasions!  But is that an overkill?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

College Kids Making Fun at Disney World

Disney World makes magic for millions of people per year. This magic is often created by the cast members themselves. During my last visit to the World, I was amazed just as often by the cast members as I was the attractions. I found that the cast members that had the most enthusiasm had college names under their names on their name tags instead of their city of origin. My sister is currently enrolled as a College Program participant so I knew that this meant that these individuals were members of Disney’s College Program.

If you have not heard about Disney’s College Program, you will be interested to find that the company employs thousands of college students annually to gain work experience in a variety of roles. When enrolled in the College Program, the participants have the opportunity to gain a role in all four parks, over 20 resorts, two water parks or in a variety of other dining/entertainment/retail complexes. Current skills held by the participants help the Corporation determine the best role for the participant in roles such as attractions operator, retail sales clerk, etc.

You will find that many of these College Program participants are overjoyed with the opportunity to bring magic and smiles to the faces of the guests at Disney World. However, most of these participants only make $7.45 per hour! And in addition to this just-over-minimum-wage rate, these College Program participants have their payroll checks automatically reduced for payment of their fully-furnished apartments. While these apartments are located a short distance off the Disney World property, the payroll reduction includes all utilities, amenities, maintenance and transportation to various areas of interest.

I must admit that with my sister being in this College Program, I was a bit more in tune with looking for her fellow College Program participants’ name tags indicating the participation and College of origin. (Sort of akin to when you buy a pair of shoes, then notice that so many others also own those same shoes!) My son and I experience our first magical moment with a College Program participant when we rode Peter Pan’s Flight. We boarded our flying galleon. To my four-year old son’s dismay, the safety bar had not lowered upon sitting in the galleon. He was just about to panic with safety concern as we approached the end of the people-mover and a College Program participant dressed in the Fantasyland attire when this cast member held up his hand-full of Pixie Dust and sprinkled it over the safety bar. Seconds later, the safety bar lowered to the correct position. My son was so excited by this bit of magic that the entire first portion of the ride he deliberated as to how this cast member had found the Pixie Dust, how the Pixie Dust works, and if we could also get us some Pixie Dust from a gift shop.

My son and I moved on to The Haunted Mansion. Once we had escaped from the Octagon Room (as you know, it has “no windows and no doors!), we lined up to approach our Doom Buggies. As you may be aware, when you start the line to the Doom Buggies you go through a huge funnel towards the more formal line. This formal line to the Buggies includes one stretch which moves to the left, then turns and proceeds to the right. The line that proceeds to the right moves directly along a half wall which separates the line from the people-mover onto the Doom Buggies. But to our bewilderment, on this trip the half wall holds a lying-face-down dead Butler. Always looking for new spins to the attractions, my son and I were highly interested in watching this dead Butler as he not only lain on this half wall, but was sliding down the wall towards the end of the Doom Buggy people-moving platform! Right before my son and I rounded the left moving line to the one that moves to the right when this dead Butler smacked the half wall with his hand and screamed a short, “Whew!” The yells, screams and surprised faces of horror from the group of unsuspecting teen-agers in front of us in line was priceless! Moments later, he helped my son and I into our Doom Buggy and I noticed his name tag indicating that he was a College Program participant. He was busy making sure that he had not scared my son while I made sure to let him know that the dead Butler scene was appreciated!

There were several other notable meetings with these College Program participants but found that witnessing my sister’s roommate as one of the performers in the Disney’s Electrical Parade was the most fascinating! Always wanting to be a dancer by profession, I can only dream about being a performer in a Disney World parade! My sister’s roommate looked as though she was having the time of her life and was really playing the part well! I learned that many of the performers in the parades and shows are College Program participants whom have tried out for these parts. They simply sign up for the tryouts for these roles, and then show off their best impression. Not only do these roles offer great opportunities for these participants, but they also offer nearly twice the pay!

I hope you have the opportunity to meet some of these enthusiastic College Program participants. Their approach is refreshing and spirited! Look for these participants at the Disney World Resort area and let them know that their work there is appreciated as many of these participants are taking time from the scholastics to bring magic to you and your family! For additional information on the Disney College Program, visit www.disneycollegeprogram.com.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Disney World Honors Fireman around the World

I am sure that many of you have seen the Fire Hall there to the right as you enter Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. The Fire Hall is located to the right of City Hall and across the street from the Barber Shop. The building has many items for sale related to the fire and police services. The items I have seen are tee shirts, holiday ornaments, coffee cups, trading pins, dog toys, etc. My husband is a firefighter and I often travel to Disney World without him and this seems to be the location where I typically pick him up a souvenir before heading home.

As many of you remember, the Fire Hall is very important at Disneyland in that it was the home to Walt Disney's personal apartment.  As legend has it, when Walt was working at his apartment the lamp located above the "Fire Dept." sign would be on.  As a tribute to Walt, the light remains on. 

If you look at this photo carefully, you will see that the light at the Disneyland Fire Hall is on:)  What you will not find at Disneyland's Fire Hall is the merchandise that was available in the Disney World location. You instead find a heavily themed Fire Hall adorned with older fire equipment. 

Back in Orlando, the Fire Hall includes some theming as well.  Enough theming that the average person not looking to purchase fire and police related merchandise would want to stop in for a look.  My favorite part of this theming can be found on the walls.  Disney World invites people from all over the country to bring their local Fire Department patches to donate.  In return for the donation, the cast member adds the patch to the walls.  After several trips to Disney World, my husband remembered to bring his patches for the county and city he works for.  We added the patches to the wall as seen here:

My husband's patches are the two all the way to the right, middle row.  What we found to be nice was that this display of patches was located right by the register!  I mean, everyone will be seeing them, right!!!  He donated these patches in February 2010. We were told that they would remain there for several weeks and then would be rotated out as new ones were brought in.  I returned to Disney World in May 2010 and they remained on the wall.  I was excited.  But when I returned in July 2010 and they were STILL there, I was amazed!  I felt like my husband was still there in the parks with me:) 

So for all of you that are firefighters, this is really a neat thing to participate in!  Thanks for all you do firefighters!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Know your Walt Disney World Resort area

During my recent stay to Disney’s Pop Century Resort, I was visiting in my own vehicle rather by my normal mode of transportation from the airport, the Magical Express Bus. Now I have been to the Walt Disney World Resort area many, many times, but typically by way of Magical Express Bus so I had never really paid attention to how we even got to the resort! (I was all too familiar, though, that when standing on the bus from the Magic Kingdom to the Pop Century, you were in it for the long haul!) I had observed that when in a park area, all of the Resorts that were located in that park area were noted on a Disney sign. I had wrongly thought that all of the Disney World Resorts were located in respect to a park, i.e. Animal Kingdom Lodge is located in the Animal Kingdom park area and so on. But when leaving EPCOT my first day, I realized I had no GPS and that I had a memory lapse as to which park area the Pop Century was located in according to Disney and their signage!

On a past stay to the Pop, my mom was the driver and we had debated that the Resort was located in the EPCOT park area (my guess) or the World Wide of Sports area (my mom’s guess). I really did not believe she was right because everyone knows that Disney only associates their Resorts with park areas, right? Needless to say, my mom loves to be right, so after getting lost on that vacation, she asked at the front desk. The look on her face was “magical” as she got the answer that the Pop Century Resort is in the Wide World of Sports area and listed on that area’s signage! Thanks mom for the tip on how to find the Pop Century Resort! For the rest of you, just remember to always find the Walt Disney World area that your Resort is associated with so you do not have to do any unnecessary Disney touring of their 25,000 acres!

Disney’s Pop Century Resort: A Hidden Extra!

I am sure that many of you have stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort in the past. However, upon my recent stay, I made the decision that since it was July, I would commit to coming back to the room for a rest during the day to avoid a complete meltdown by 4pm (I say meltdown because it was in the mid-90s during this stay, but felt more like the mid-100s!). So on the first day when I returned to the Resort for my rest at about 2 pm, I did as I usually do when returning to the Resort at the end of the night and went to make a bee-line to my nice, clean air conditioned room (I knew they were air conditioned because of the retro sign as driving into the Resort that announces, “Air Conditioning”!) when my son spotted the playground located outside of the Classic Hall and close to the 90’s parking lot.

This was the first time we had spotted this playground. It is located down a small pathway and is a bit obscure, unless you know where it is and what you are looking for! My son and I found this playground to be heavily treed which offered enough shade to reduce the heat of the day to a more manageable level. My son, age 4, dramatically enjoyed the slides, bars and pebbles (Yes, I said pebbles. He loves to dig!), while I enjoyed the seats that were along the parameter of the area. I found that I felt that my son was safe there in that playground for the following reasons:

1. flooring was made of pebbles and large rubberized mats,

2. only one entrance/exit to the playground (unless a child could climb and make their way through the surrounding bushes and scrubs)

3. the area is so isolated that most children pass right by without even giving the area a glance leading to a hidden oasis for a kid!

4. the playground has age restrictions of 2-12 year olds and

5. all children must be supervised.

I found out that many of the Disney Resorts have playgrounds for the children! It was so nice for my son to get to get up out of his stroller for a bit before going to our room for his nap. It really helped him get good and extra tired so falling asleep was fast and easy! This lead to a magical portion of the day when I got to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet! Now that is a hidden extra all within itself!