Sunday, February 28, 2010

Disneyland Part 1

How it all began ~ Part 1
As I prepared to write this piece I took time to research the initial idea of Disneyland, the plans and preparation that took place before it's opening on July 17, 1955 and the plans and preparations that still take place causing the Disneyland Resort to be a magical vacation destination for millions of visitors each year. I look forward to sharing with you what I've learned in my research and my 15+ visits to Disneyland
'To all who come to this happy place, Welcome...'
-Walt Disney
(Welcome speech-Opening Day-July 17, 1955) 

Disneyland was originally created from an idea that Walt had while spending time with his daughters each Sunday. He would watch his girls whirling on a beautiful carousel at a local park and imagine a place where children and their parents could enjoy a safe, clean entertaining experience together. He considered creating an amusement park adjoining his studio in Burbank with a train running around on a track around the park, a river, and a little Western street. Research was the key to Walt's success. He spent a lot time visiting other amusement parks around the country to learn about them-what worked and what didn't. He spoke to children to ask them what they liked? Walt met with his designers. Ideas were discussed, plans were drawn up and soon Walt realized that the land near the studio was not large enough to contain all of the dreams had for a family amusement park. He knew he needed a major piece of land since his research had helped to decide that his park wasn't going to be tiny. It was going to be big! More research; freeways, population growth, temperature differences. Ten possible sites were considered, three were preferred. In 1954, more than 160 acres covered in orange groves, was purchased in the sleepy town of Anaheim, California.
Building Walt's dream, Disneyland, continued to grow.
To be continued...

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Magic Kingdom’s History

by Erin Santamaria
toll free 877-377-0505

The Magic Kingdom - Everyone knows what it is. It’s THE theme park at Walt Disney World…the original park…the first one built. It’s “The Most Magical Place On Earth” for children and adults alike. But have you ever wondered about the history of the Magic Kingdom? If you’re anything like me, you would find it interesting to know some of the ins and outs of the park.

Walt Disney worked for many years on “The Florida Project”. Wanting to build a park bigger and better than Disneyland, he focused on how he could improve on its design. Building underground tunnels (utlidors) was the most important improvement to Disney. Unlike Disneyland, cast members could use the utilidors to walk freely and get around the park…unseen by the guests. Disney felt it ruined the “illusion” for guests to see such things as garbage collection, food delivery and costumed cast members cutting through the different lands of the park. Because of Florida’s high water table, the utilidors could not be built underground as planned(every hold dug filled with water). They had to be on ground level, forcing them to build the Magic Kingdom on the second story. That’s right, the Magic Kingdom is “upstairs”!

I have taken a tour of the Magic Kingdom where guests were allowed guided access to parts of these tunnels. Aside from food delivery and garbage collection, there are also many offices and cafeterias underground. You would be surprised to know just how much action is going on down there during the course of the day.

Sadly, Walt Disney did not live to see the completion of his project. He did not see the opening of the Magic Kingdom, as well as the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian Resort (collective known as Walt Disney World), in 1971. With twenty-three attractions and six themed lands on opening day, the Magic Kingdom has more than doubled it attractions and now has 7 themed lands. Shaped like a bicycle wheel with the center right in front of Cinderella’s Castle, the pathways to these lands branch out like spokes across 107 acres.

To say there was much attention to detail in designing the Magic Kingdom would be the biggest understatement I could make. It’s amazing how truly different each and every land is from the other. It was Disney’s intention to take guests to another world upon entering each one.

Main Street USA was inspired by Walt Disney’s childhood and has an early 20th century America d├ęcor. Walking down Main Street is very symbolic to guests as this is the first glimpse many get of Cinderella’s Castle, which is at the very end of Main Street.

Adventureland is themed after the jungles of Asia, the Middle East, South America and the South Pacific. It is the home of Pirates of the Caribbean, many people’s favorite attraction in WDW.

Frontierland is very much like the Wild West. It’s home to cowboys, Indians, Goofy in a cowboy hat and spurs…
Liberty Square is meant to resemble colonial America. Here is where you’d find the very popular Haunted Mansion attraction, a replica of the Liberty Bell and Liberty Tree.

Being in Fantasyland is like being at a medieval carnival. The entrance to this land is through the castle. This is where the attractions are based on such Disney Classic movies as Snow White, Peter Pan and Dumbo (among many others). Fantasyland is a child’s dream come true (and mine, although I’m just a tiny bit older than a child). In late 2009, it was announced that Fantasyland will expand to include more Disney Princesses, Disney Fairies and a Dumbo area with a 3-ring circus. It’s expected to be finished by 2013 and I can’t WAIT!

Tomorrowland offers a peak into the future. This intergalactic land is home to Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain and the Astro Orbitor.

At first, Mickey’s Toontown Fair was supposed to be temporary. However, it was so popular that it was made permanent Have you ever wondered where Mickey and Minnie live? You’ll find their houses here…but not for long. This area will soon be demolished to make room for the huge expansion in Fantasyland. Never fear, Mickey & Minnie won’t be homeless, they’ll just have a new Magic Kingdom address.

To give a complete description of the park, I’d have to write a book…maybe even several. If you’ve never been to the park, or haven’t in some time, it’s time for a visit! The Magic Kingdom is my favorite park. I spend at least 2 days there when visiting WDW…sometimes even 3. I’ve known people to visit Florida just for a weekend and only visit the Magic Kingdom. If you are interested, contact me for information on a truly magical experience. Once you’ve been, you will see just why the Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

History of Walter Elias Disney

Why is Disney so magical?  What makes us feel like we are wrapped up in inviting arms when we travel to Disney destinations?  The only way to answer these questions is to take a look at the history of Walt Disney the man.

Walt Disney was born in 1901 in the Midwest and moved to Kansas City with his parents as a child.  In the early 1920’s he began his first cartoon drawings called Laugh-O-Grams and eventually moved to California where he started up the Disney Bros Studio with brother Roy and married wife, Lillian.  In 1927 Walt had developed a character called Oswald the Rabbit, whose rights were later stolen from him by Charlie Mintz of Universal Pictures.

On the train home from the meeting in which he lost his signature Oswald Rabbit, Lillian helped him come up with Mickey Mouse… and a star was born! Walt went on to build a successful studio with Mickey Mouse, silly symphony and feature movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

In the early 1940’s Walt would take his girls out to play every Sunday and wondered why no one had created a place that both parents and kids could go to have fun together.  Only July 20th, 1955 his dream finally became a reality when Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.  The opening day was featured on TV and brought quite a crowd.

Walt continued to make movies such as The Shaggy Dog, and in 1964 Mary Poppins.  He began to develop the well known Animatronics for The 1964 Worlds Fair also.  The prime attraction was The Carousel of Progress which documented American progress through the decades.  Today an updated version of the original is in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World in Florida.

During the 1960’s Walt also bought up lots of land all over the nation, but his most important project was known as The Florida Project.  Under several names he bought up parcels of land in swampy central Florida in order to build a new theme park.  He didn’t want to make the same mistake with Disneyland and allow the outside world to infringe on his magical world, and so bought up enough land to isolate the theme park.

While developing his new Magic Kingdom in Florida and his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, Walt fell ill with lung cancer and died on December 15, 1966.

The company Walt had founded with brother Roy picked itself back up and opened Walt Disney World in 1971 with The Magic Kingdom.  Later they opened Epcot, but not as Walt had envisioned (an actual community people would live and work in), but rather as a theme park that focused on the Future and a World’s Fair theme, two things Walt loved very much.

Walt was dedicated to entertainment and as a Dad wanted somewhere to take his kids that everyone would enjoy.  His movies, animated shorts and theme parks showed his joy for life.  That joy has entered  our hearts and gives us that tingly fuzzy magical feeling we come to expect at Disney destinations.  Walt is truly an inspiration to enjoy life and  have fun!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why you should stay on Disney Property

Benefits of Staying on Disney Property

"Convince me the extra money is worth it", is a phrase I hear quite often. For some people staying on property is never a question, for others you have to convince them it's worth it. I have found staying on property is definitely a plus, the treatment you receive makes you feel like a VIP. You don't have to stay in the most expensive resort to recieve all the perks, they are available to you when you choose to stay in any of the Disney owned resorts. There are many perks for Walt Disney Resort guests and if you choose to stay off property, you are not entitled to these perks. There are numerous benefits, but I classify these as my top four:
1.  Walt Disney World Transportation System--Buses, monorails, and boat launches are combined to connect all areas of WDW. With the convenience of door-to-door service throughout the resort many guests enjoy their WDW vacation without a car.

2.  Extra Magic Hours--Guests staying at a Disney Resort are given each day an extra hour prior to opening or up to 3 hours after park closing. To take advantage of this offer guests must have their resort ID plus a valid admission ticket for the parks offering EM hours.

3. Disney Dining Plan--Guests who combine their room accomodations and attraction tickets into a Magic Your Way Package are eligible to add dining for the convenience of a more-inclusive vacation package.

4.  Disney's Magical Express--- If you are traveling via airline to Orlando Airport (MCO), you will receive luggage tags that allow you to check your bags at your hometown airport, bypass baggage claim at MCO and board a state-of-the-art motor coach for complimentary transportation to your Disney Resort, where your bags will magically appear in your room. When it's time to leave you will board the motor coach for complimentary transportation back to MCO. An extra convenience: If you are traveling on participating airlines, you can check your baggage for the return flight at the Disney Resort , saving time and carrying luggage around at the airport.

Central Billing, Child-Care Services, Exemption from parking fees at the WDW Theme Parks, Guaranteed Themepark Entry, Guest Services, Online Check-In, Preferred Tee Times, are several other benefits Disney has to offer if staying on Disney property.

To learn more about the reasons to stay at a Disney Resort, contact me or any of the WDWTravels agents.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

WDWTravels and Our Free Services

Planning a Disney vacation on your own can be quite a daunting task. There are so many facets and dimensions to a Disney vacation which makes using WDWTravels the perfect choice! Why wouldn’t you put all of the leg work on your very own personal Disney Travel Consultant?

The best part – it is not only a superior service provided by a knowledgeable Disney expert, but it is FREE! You don’t pay a penny to plan where you will stay, arrange all of your dining reservations, be informed of all special events and best of all, receive any promotions which will decrease the price of your trip.

You can focus on relaxing and anticipating your upcoming vacation. Why burden yourself with all of the details when your Disney Travel Consultant can take that burden away from you?

Let us make all of your advanced dining reservations, so you can eat at all the restaurants you desire. We’ll let you know where you can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with all of the Disney characters! Aside from being a very fun meal, it offers fantastic photo opportunities that will last a lifetime. If you are unable to get the desired reservation of your choice, we will continue to try to secure it for you up until you are in your Disney destination.

We’ll let you know when all of the parades, fireworks, and special events are happening. You’ll want to know what nights Spectomagic, Wishes Fireworks and Illuminations, among all the others are happening. In addition, you will know when Extra Magic hours are occurring in each of the parks to maximize your family’s fun!

Allow us to continuously monitor for discounts that will alter the price of your trip for the better. Disney is constantly offering discounts that benefit the traveler! It’s our job to save you money!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seven Nights of Magic

Before December 12, 2009, I had never even stepped foot on a cruise ship. But I can say now it was one of the best vacations I have ever been on!

My daughter and I took the December 12-19 Western Caribbean Disney cruise. We left on Saturday, December 12 and headed out for a full week of fun in the sun!

Let me say first – the ship (the Disney Magic) was decorated BEAUTIFULLY for the holidays. There was a huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the lobby so as soon as we stepped foot on the ship we could feel the festivity. Once we boarded we were directed as to where we could go to get some lunch. On our way to Parrot Cay we passed a huge, wonderful gingerbread house. The whole area smelled like gingerbread! It was wonderful!

After we finished our lunch at Parrot Cay (where there was enough food to feed an army, and feed them well!) we headed to our stateroom. We were in an inside stateroom on deck 6. We unpacked our belongings and then headed out for the lifeboat drill. From then on, we were on our own, which for my daughter and I meant a week of sun, fun, rest, and food!

Each night of the cruise, you have a preselected dinner time, as well as a specified restaurant to eat in. They also seat you with the same people each night, and you have the same waiters at each restaurant. We grew to love Francois and Luke! Also, Disney worked some kind of magic when matching us up with dinner-mates because we also grew to love our dinner companions! My daughter made friends with one girl in particular who I think she will be friends with for life!

Day 2 of our cruise took us to Key West, Florida. What a wonderful place to stop! We absolutely loved walking the streets of Key West, taking in the sights and soaking up the sun. I would highly recommend the key lime pie at the Blonde Giraffe. Perfection!

Day 3 was a day at sea, and my daughter’s 11th birthday. There was so much to do on the ship that even if you never got off at a port you could never be bored! And we are SO thankful for our personal navigators. These little papers were our own personal planners for the entire cruise! We’d sit down with highlighters each evening and use our personal navigators to help us plan the next day’s activities.

Everyone we encountered made a big deal about my daughter’s birthday. When it turned midnight the night before her birthday, she was in the kids club. Everyone there sang Happy Birthday to her. When she returned for activities the next day, they all sang to her again. And on the evening of her birthday, all the servers in the restaurant sang to her and brought her a cake. She felt quite special.

Day 4 was a stop at Grand Cayman. My daughter and I got off the ship and took a tour that took us through the town and out to “Hell” and to a rum cake factory. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgeable and was able to share quite a bit of Grand Cayman history with us.

Day 5 was a stop at Cozumel. My daughter saw in our personal navigator that there was a Ron Jon surf shop in Cozumel so we had to go hunt that down. Let me tell you, it was easy to find but quite a hike from the port! I’d definitely recommend good walking shoes if you are going to go out on your own. We were able to get quite a few nice souvenirs in Cozumel.

Day 6 was another day at sea. We spent a lot of that day laying out and resting. And eating!

Day 7 was a stop at Disney’s island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. What a beautiful island! My daughter was immensely impressed with the Flying Dutchman that was just off shore there. We took many pictures of it! While at Castaway Cay we had some great BBQ and did some shopping. Due to the weather (rain and wind) we didn’t stay long on the island. This gave me time to do some laundry and start packing.

On the 19th we returned to Cape Canaveral. We were sent off with a wonderful breakfast and a lot of tears and goodbyes.

There is no question in my mind that we will be taking another Disney cruise. There were live shows each night, movies, games, activities, and so much wonderful food! We returned to our cabin each night to find our beds made, and turned down for us, with little chocolates on our pillows. Disney quality and pride of service was everywhere you turned. This cruise will be counted as among one of the best vacations of my entire life.