This Happy Place Blog » Blog

Masthead header

Joy to the World: Holiday Family Checklist

This week, I was pleasantly surprised (although my coworkers were probably appalled) by the Christmas in July block of music on Magical Mouse Radio. (It’s my must-stop for music on Tuesdays!) Even if it’s sweltering and humid outside the office, it was nice to get a taste for the cheery and nostalgic tunes I have to look forward to in the next few months. Plus it got me into the spirit for what’s turned into a little holiday tradition of its own: Christmas in July with Melissa of Rolling with the Magic.

Holiday Decor in Magic Kingdom WDW 2013

Last year, we dedicated a whole month to our favorite holiday but this time, we are celebrating Christmas in July Eve. It’s crazy to think that in 5 months we’ll be shivering in our boots, possibly looking forward to snow, and awaiting Santa’s arrival. Is it just me or is this year moving even more swiftly than the last?

Let’s talk holidays. Since this time last year, I’ve had a few of my own Disney holiday miracles. I’ve actually gotten to see the Osborne Lights in action! I also drank my first peppermint mocha on Main Street while listening to the awesome holiday audio in the Magic Kingdom. These are definitely moments I’ll hold on to forever. With Melissa gearing up for a holiday family trip this year, I thought I would talk about what I would want to do if all my mom’s wishes came true and we made it down South for a very Mickey Christmas.

To stay: Wilderness Lodge

Wilderness Lodge Walt Disney World

I never have much of a desire to stay here during any other visit but it seems perfectly cozy and homey for the holidays. (In fact, I’m listening to their holiday loop as I write this.) I’ve never stayed in a Magic Kingdom resort with my family so it would be nice to give that a whirl plus I want to avoid crowds as much as possible during the holiday madness in the theme parks. I don’t think I’ll ever go to a theme park on actual Christmas so I would love to explore, relax, and hang out amongst all the foliage and fun of Wilderness Lodge, and perhaps grab a Double Chocolate Stout over at Territory Lounge.

To do:  Sleigh Ride at Fort Wilderness

Despite living in the north, I’ve never done a sleigh ride in the snow so I think staying at Fort Wilderness would be the perfect opportunity to take advantage. Again, I never hang around the Wilderness resorts much so it would be great to get a feel for them and take the grand tour especially in Christmas style. My only question is: do they play Christmas music while this ride is going on? I sure hope so!

To eat: Narcoossee’s

The holidays are all about tradition, correct? My family always enjoyed celebrating holidays at Narcoossee’s when we were fortunate enough to vacation together so I’d love to spend a holiday dinner with a great view of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon. It’s not exactly the home cooked meal we have come to expect every year at home, but if we are in Florida for the holidays, we might as well splurge. I think this spot is totally worth it.

To tour: Gingerbread houses along Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake View Walt Disney World

The BoardWalk Resort area has always been super special to my parents and I. We stayed there so much during my childhood. (Ugh, teenage years? Does that make me sound less old?) I can’t foresee us NOT spending a ton of time here so I think touring all the gingerbread creations in the resorts + stopping for a fun drink in our favorite spots (Belle Vue, Crew’s Cup, ESPN) is on the list to ensure some holiday delight. (I am reminded of Rhiannon’s great adventures around Crescent Lake during the holiday season last year.)

To see: Holiday Wishes

Since my parents are DVC members, my dreams from last year could finally come true! (You know… if this trip was actually happening.) Fireworks from the Magic Kingdom and a lovely coffee martini at the Top of the World with the entire family in tow? Sounds like the perfect way to make some memories to me.

Bonus: I cannot say enough amazing things about the Illuminations Cruise. I’ve never done the Wishes one, and the last time I took one of these was in November on the coldest evening ever. We could see the Christmas trees from the boat, and today I was thinking how cool it would be to do a special occasion cruise with my family and my husband. Get the crew all together for something we wouldn’t do on a normal trip. We love Epcot. We love Illuminations, and the fact that we can all have a drink on board now would make it even more awesome. So it”s definitely something to think about.

Dear Mom, if you are reading this… there is still time to convince Dad to make this trip happen this year. If not, at least we’ll be prepped for the future!

Readers, here’s hoping the rest of your day is cheery and bright! Is it possible to not wish away the entire year and still want the holiday season upon us so badly? I guess we’ll find out! Happy dreaming!

Be sure to stop in & check out what Melissa is going to her REAL family trip to the parks this holiday season!

Fa la la la la laaaaaaaaaaa

[…] with Estelle from This Happy Place Blog for our annual Christmas in July posts. Estelle shared what her dream family trip to Walt Disney World would look like and I shared what I am looking forward to sharing with my family this year. The […]

All Around the World: Dan’s Disney Bucket List

Editor’s note: So glad to welcome Dan to THP once again! He certainly inspired a bit of wanderlust in me with his Disney to-do travel list. Hopefully his extensive list will do the same for you!

Most hardcore Disney fans that spend their days gorging on blogs and podcasts have developed a mental list of experiences they still need to do at the resorts. The new parks in Asia and their enticing high-tech attractions have placed them at the front of many of our must-see rankings. I’ve visited Disney World many times and made one trip to Disneyland and Disneyland Paris as an adult. While my trips are more frequent than the average guest, there are plenty of attractions, restaurants, and hotels left to visit. There are far too many to discuss within a single post, but I’ve placed some of the big ones here. They span all the parks and are enough to keep me inspired about the possibilities in all the parks. Without further unnecessary rambling, here is my “Disney bucket list” of excitement from around the world.

The Blue Bayou at Disneyland

Let’s begin with the original Disney theme park and one of its most iconic dining establishments. I know that the prices are outlandish, but the food is only a small part of the draw. Getting a chance to eat inside the Pirates of the Caribbean as boats float by isn’t something that you can do anywhere. If my wife and I ever visit Disneyland without the kids, the Blue Bayou would be at the top of my list. 

Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland

Few overseas attractions inspire as much jealousy among U.S. fans as Mystic Manor. We’ve been waiting for this kind of exciting new ride at Disney World for so long! I’m not a huge fan of copying the same things at every park, but this should be the exception. Duplicating it in Orlando should be a top priority for Disney management. The trackless system and inventive special effects are unlike anything in Florida, and the ride could easily fit within the Magic Kingdom or the Animal Kingdom. If you haven’t watched the online videos of Mystic Manor, you owe it to yourself to see what we’re missing.

Journey to the Center of the Earth and Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, Tokyo Disneysea

Journey to the Center of the Earth

I could easily pick the entire park at Tokyo Disneysea for this list. There are so many intriguing shows and rides, and the immersive décor is like nothing else in existence. With that dilemma in mind, I’ve identified two attractions that are nowhere else and earn raves from fans. My first pick is obvious and the centerpiece of the park within a giant mountain. Journey to the Center of the Earth has been compared to Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers (which could also make this list), and most consider it even better. Not everyone loves Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, which has an It’s a Small World vibe. From what I’ve seen online, this leisurely boat ride showcases what Disney does best.

Tomorrowland in Tokyo Disneyland

There are plenty of worthy candidates at Tokyo’s original park, but I’ve chosen all of Tomorrowland because its white look feels like the ‘80s image of my childhood. They have the original Star Jets! Although the People Mover is missing, the general décor resembles the Magic Kingdom before the changes in the ‘90s. When you add that to a high-tech Monsters Inc. ride, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and Star Tours, you have a pretty amazing area with no low points.

Stay at a Deluxe Resort Villa at Disney World

Returning to the States, I’ve visited Orlando enough times to check out all the interesting attractions at those four parks. The Snow White Mine Train looks well-done, but I wouldn’t put it on this list. Instead, my attention is on the accommodations. We typically rent a condo outside the parks because of the space and convenience it provides. Even so, I would love to have the ability to stay on Disney property at a deluxe villa. Monorail resorts like the Polynesian offer a great location, but I might choose one of the EPCOT resorts due to their proximity to that beloved park. You can’t really go wrong.

Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel

Trader Sams at Disneyland

I’m still kicking myself for not visiting this small bar at the Disneyland Hotel when I was there a few years ago. Its unique décor reminds me of the wonderful Adventurers Club, and it looks like the perfect place to hang out for drinks after a busy day at the park. I know they’re building another one at the Polynesian, but I’m still drawn to the original in California.

Future Contender: Ratatouille at Walt Disney Studios in Paris

Although it’s just opening this summer, the Ratatouille: L’aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy ride in Paris seems ready to join the ranks of the classic Disney attractions. It’s another example of an international park getting something exciting that I’d love to see in Florida or California. It will also be a trackless ride, and the scale of everything sounds very impressive.

This list includes just a small sample of what could be an extremely long list. I’ve been to Disney World plenty of times, yet there are still unexplored corners all over the property. The parks in Asia are the Holy Grail for me, but the time and resources needed to get there makes that trip very difficult. I did make it to Paris, so who knows? Either way, it’s fun to dream about catching the attractions that we’ve heard so much about from the fans that have made the journey. In the meantime, we can live vicariously through online videos, on-ride audio, and reviews that give an insider’s perspective on those amazing sites.

Big thanks to Jeff for providing the photos for this post.

NickJuly 23, 2014 - 11:33 am

I know you know this already from me, but Journey to the Center of the Earth is fun… but Sinbad’s Voyage is sooo boring and uninteresting. The only good thing about that is there was literally NO line when I went, and I just walked straight up to the boat. So I got an easy out-of-the-sun experience for 10 minutes.

Dan HeatonJuly 23, 2014 - 2:27 pm

I should clarify that I’m a big fan of slow-moving and cheesy Disney rides, especially when they’re in boats. How can it not work for me?

NickJuly 23, 2014 - 2:36 pm

Ah, then that makes sense. However, I’d also strongly recommend listing the “Big Band Beat” show, which is also apparently only in DisneySea. Probably my favorite thing I did at the park.

Happy Anniversary One + All!

Editor’s note: I swear I did not put Alan up to this. LOL. I hope you enjoy his piece as much as I did!

This month is the anniversary of one of my favorite Walt Disney World blogs. Three years ago, Estelle started this project of love and it’s still going strong. I’ll admit that I have not been a reader since day one. To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a Walt Disney World community three years ago. I wasn’t on Twitter and I didn’t really know anything about blogs, let alone blogs about Walt Disney World.

But thankfully, I randomly joined Twitter and my life as a member of the Disney community took off. Along the way, I’ve met and worked with some amazing people. Estelle is easily at the top of that list. I’m so grateful that I met her through another Disney blog and that I was able to establish a friendship with her.

Estelle isn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary this month though. Let’s shift our attention to these attractions:

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith turned 15 this month. Did you know that Disney originally approached U2 about tying in with this attraction?  I for one am happy that didn’t work out.
  • Over in Epcot, Maelstrom turned 26 years old.  While you’re waiting in line, keep your eyes open for a Viking wearing Mickey ears.
  • The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover turned 39 years old this month.  Of course, it has had multiple name changes over the years including the WEDway Peoplemover and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Did you know Mike Brassell, the current voice of the TTA, is also the voice of Living with the Land at Epcot?
  • My two favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World also celebrated anniversaries this month.  The 199-foot tall Twilight Zone Tower of Terror turned 20 years old.  The Hollywood Tower Hotel is 199 feet tall because the FAA requires any building over 200 feet tall to have blinking red lights and the Imagineers didn’t want that on their attraction.
  • Lastly, my personal favorite Splash Mountain turned 22 years old.  Believe it or not, the name came from then-CEO Michael Eisner.  He wanted to tie the attraction into the Tom Hanks film Splash.  Good thing they didn’t try to theme it after the film.
Happy July Anniversary Disney Attractions

Photos by Alan

As you can tell, July is a busy month for attraction anniversaries and birthdays at Walt Disney World.  As much as we all love new attractions that are fresh and exciting, it’s nice to have those reliable classics. Sometimes, we just want to spend time with old friends.

This Happy Place Blog has become an old friend. It really is a happy place. Not just for Estelle, but for all of us. Congratulations on three years and here’s to many more!

Muppet Monday: In the Glimmer of the Moonlight

It’s summer, and I’m doing what any average person is doing during the summer: dreaming of vacation.

We won’t be going anywhere extravagant this year (if we go anywhere at all), but one place on my list? Hawaii. James has already been there twice, but I’m looking forward to the day we can stretch out on a beautiful Hawaiian beach and read for hours and hours. If we’re lucky maybe Kermit will show up with his pals and serenade us while the sun goes down.

How about a little “Ukulele Lady” to kick start your Monday morning?

Doesn’t Kermit look fab in his lei and let’s chat about that Scooter! I love his backup vocals. This particular music sketch is from Season 2 of The Muppet Show. I wish Kermit played the ukulele more often these days. Alas…

Have you ever heard the term “evergreen song”? Me neither. But apparently it’s a musical term for “timeless classic” and that’s exactly how “Ukulele Lady” is described. The song dates back to 1925! See? That’s one thing I consistently love about the old Muppet Shows… the musical selections were varied, smart, and never felt like they would go out of style. (Now if only the people behind the song selections of the recent movies felt the same way… although “The Chorus Line” throwback in Muppets Most Wanted was a treat.)

Here’s hoping you find a little paradise during your week…!

Happy Reads (+ Recap) of the Week: 7/18/14

I’m back! I missed last week, and I apologize but I have NINE awesome posts from around the community to share with you today.

First, though, did you say happy birthday to Disneyland yesterday? To celebrate you should definitely check out Kate Abbott’s book, DISNEYLANDERS. I recently reread it + guys, it made me want to hop on a plane and head to California ASAP. The magic, the uncertainty of change, growing up, romance, and family. It’s all there. If you need a refresher, here’s my review from last year! Kate has a gorgeous new cover now and I’m in love.

Disneylanders by Kate Abbott

Second, it’s possible for me to link up all the goodness happening at Mouse on the Mind lately. No doubt her series, Imagineering Awesome, is literally awesome in every way. Disney, you have a ton of free ideas right at your fingertips from people who love the parks. The creativity in these are amazing. Go check it out!

Now, before you get cracking on your weekend, take some time to read these:

In case you missed it:

Have a fantastic weekend, friends! Thanks for stopping in!:)